It was a beautiful day to enjoy the outdoors, the sun was bright, warm and brought brief solace from the office work environment. I was enjoying a short lunch break at Wynyard Park when my privacy was suddenly interrupted. “Can I get a cigarette?” a gruff, female voice asked. Her natural voice was noticeably masked by years of irreversible damage that smoking had caused, and a heavy smoker’s voice was the result. I looked up, her eyes met mine.
Her disheveled presentation and her lack of general personal grooming indicted that she had more than a cigarette addiction. Years of substance abuse were etched in her face. The old lady that I was seeing was most likely only middle aged.
I guessed her question was directed at myself. “No ma’am, I don’t smoke,” I replied.
“Oh that’d be right, you have a job,” she immediately snarled. She followed up with some incoherent words mixed with the type of swear words I barely knew existed. She walked away, looking over her shoulder as she relentlessly kept up the pace of the verbal abuse.
I didn’t reply. I didn’t know what I could say that could ease the frustration of this woman at this moment. I would normally be embarrassed to have such unwanted attention focused on me, but this time was different. Others watched the outburst with curiosity while continuing to munch on their sandwiches. They appeared to accept this as normal behavior.
Suddenly my vision changed. I now saw an unkempt lady exercising a loss of vocal self-control. Rather, I saw a soul that was fearfully and wonderfully made. A person that was made in the image of God.
And this made me angry. Angry that this lady had believed a lie. Angry that she had been tricked by the thief who came for nothing but for to steal, to kill, and to destroy.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10
This was not the life that God had intended for her. It was unlikely the life that she had intended for herself, but for reasons unknown, she had made some poor life choices, and the end result was anything but desirable.
And then came the moment of clarity. But for the grace of God, go I.
These moments give me the shivers as I catch a glimpse of where I could have been if it wasn’t for the grace of God.
What if I hadn’t responded when God called me? What if I chose the beggarly elements of the world instead of the riches that the Kingdom of God offers? Could that be me today? I now had a renewed over-whelming sense of gratitude and thanksgiving.
The apostle Paul recognized that anything good in his life was not of his doing, but only the grace of God when he penned the words to the Corinthian church:
But by the grace of God I am what I am… 1 Corinthians 15:10
Not only should we have compassion and pray for those who have been marred by the stain of sin, but it should also lead to self-reflection, with remembrance of where God brought us from and where we could be today. And that, my friend, should cause us to have an attitude of thanksgiving!
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. Psalm 100:4
This is a blog post from Shawn Arbeau, the Sunday School Director of the POS.