Grace is an amazing gift

It’s Tuesday morning, April 7. Our son John phoned from Calgary to see how we are doing. His question is not without some concern. About a week ago I was admitted to our local hospital because of a stroke. I never lost consciousness, but I definitely experienced a slow down. After four days I was home again, but in need of restoration. It’s hard to account for this unwelcome invasion of heart problems. How does one resume living while recovering from a mental lapse? Time will tell how all this affects my life style.

After my conversation with John, I started to read the newspaper, and on the letters page I find 35 short letters written by readers of the National Post who give an answer to “the oldest question in the universe” namely, “Do you believe in God?” Of the 35 people who responded, 11 say they don’t believe in God. So the outcome of this quest is that belief in God hovers around two-thirds of all respondents. Not bad, I guess. But I have an idea that belief in God is an unpredictable outcome. And who knows what people are really saying when they profess or deny a belief.

There was one profession of belief stated on the Letters page that interested me more than some of the others. A 68-year-old gentleman called Al Sontrop from Ottawa said that he believes, but he is more impressed with those who, “through their own lived experience, can explain, practically, why belief now has real meaning.” This gentleman likes the experiential expression of faith by people who live out their faith in practical ways. He added the observation that his own work in carpentry taught him, that “it’s harder to fix my own mistakes than someone else’s.”

There is a certain humility expressed in this relatively old gentleman’s observation. I suspect that he is more effective in judging someone else’s lifestyle than he realizes. Underestimating your own effectiveness in the work of sanctification is generally a productive activity. And we would all benefit from such an honest and underestimating assessment of our own sanctification.

Love is in the air
Perhaps, this unexpected turn of events for Mr. Sontrop is instructive for me as I try to understand what has really happened to me after my heart adventure. As I dealt with the aftermath of my coronary lapse, I discovered that I was in a better position to understand my subordinate status in the kingdom of heaven. If perchance I had been guilty of overestimating my importance in that kingdom before, the realization of my true status kind of sucked the air out of my balloon. Without that air, the only thing I could count on was grace. And grace is a gift rather than an achievement.

This morning I came to terms with my diminished status. Two friends phoned to tell me that they would like to visit us. I checked out the church roster to verify their names, Kiflu Retta and Hirut Tesfaye. Their sons Samuel and Abbey were in school this morning. Kiflu and Hirut are Ethiopian friends of ours, but I could not recall their names from their telephone message. We had a wonderful visit from them. I don’t know whether I will remember their names a week from now. But their spirits are in my heart, and I enjoy the fresh fruit they brought.

An hour later, a local florist drops off a lovely bouquet of roses from my friends at Christian Courier. Other bouquets of flowers had been dropped off in the previous days. Love is in the air, I tell myself. My diminished status is turning into a giant celebration of victory. Maybe I should tickle my feet and start a little victory dance.

And so I move from day to day, either remembering or forgetting those things that seemed so important to me a week ago. But God is keeping track, and the faithful world is moving to the rhythm of his loving heart.

Bert Witvoet is enjoying his restoration period at home, while the warmer weather is trying to support his improved condition. He is especially heartened by the expressions
of love of his family, relatives and friends.

  • Bert Witvoet is a former educator and editor of various magazines, including the Christian Courier, who lives with his wife, Alice, in St. Catharines, Ontario.

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