Grace After Grace

For from His fullness we have all received, grace after grace.
~ John 1:16

God reaches me through nature ~ often and powerfully! It’s almost inescapable here in this part of the beautiful PNW. We live between 2 stunning mountain ranges. We’re blessed with water access ~ fresh and saltwater options ~ nearly everywhere we turn. Not to mention the ocean just a couple hours away! Or if we’re feeling the need to dry off, there’s an entirely different, dryer, usually warmer terrain just a couple hours away in the other direction east over the Cascade mountains. We live in a truly incredible, almost obscenely rich area for natural beauty!

I gathered many of His nature-born messages early in my life. The evergreen trees with their tall spires pointing heavenward full of praise, or graceful willows humbly bowing before Him.  Then there’s those mountains on both sides of us, loudly shouting the might and glory and majesty of God. You get up close to them, or even one of them, like Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens in the Cascades or Hurricane Ridge in the Olympics, and “awesome” becomes more than a catch-phrase and awe becomes a tangible experience.  And all that water around us? Last year I wrote a poem, “I Want to be a Lake” on the desire to reflect God’s love and salvation as clearly as still water reflects God’s creation. (CWO-9-29-2021)

So, I’ve felt like I’ve had a pretty good grasp on many of the things God speaks through nature, but one thing eluded me ~ ocean waves.  On rocky coasts those waves can come crashing in with urgent violence, exploding into a white shower that’s flung all over the jagged rocks. It’s even better on sunny days when those broken waves cast up light-catching crystal showers ~ flinging light everywhere over the dark shore. Or on the flat, sandy shores the ocean breakers roll and crash all right, but then they sleekly slide up the beach in foam-edged yet clear, thin sheets persistently seeking to reach out, gently pushing for more shore, until they settle and soak deep into the waiting sands.

I’ve sat for hours ~ like so many of us ~ watching these delightful displays. I could feel the presence and tug of the Holy Spirit in it, sure and certain a message was there, just as I had when I was learning through the trees and the mountains. But I didn’t get it.

Now there are many, many things God says and will say to us through His Holy Spirit speaking through His creation, and I’ve just mentioned a few of the standouts for me, but I puzzled over the meaning in those insistent, persistent waves for decades.  It’s like verses in the Word we KNOW are significant and deep, but we feel like we’re Never going to really “get” them.  Yes, we intellectually understand the Words we read, but to comprehend and grasp their truth? It feels beyond us. Galatians 2:20 is one of those verses in my life ~ yes, I intellectually grasp the words, and nowadays it’s less “frustrating” as God in His faithfulness is slowly helping me to understand and have patience with that mystery of our life of faith.

So, all of this to say, imagine my great joy when one Sunday morning as my pastor is preaching on John 1, he reads the verse up there at the top of this article and says, “This phrase is actually translated a little more clearly as ‘grace after grace’, like waves of the sea.” Even before he got to those words “like waves” the Holy Spirit pushed that button in my head and said “waves”. I nearly jumped up out of my chair with the “Squeee!” inside me almost coming out of my mouth, but instead I just sat there bubbling with joy over the huge gift the Lord gave me that morning.

Yet it was the gift that kept on giving, because for a few moments while our pastor continued preaching ~ mercifully and blithely unaware of this epiphany for me ~ there were other impressions and understandings from the Lord coming in, wave after wave. We generally tend to think of God’s grace as a gentle, tender, cleansing thing that works deeply in our lives. And it certainly is all of that, but let us not lose track of the power and persistence of the love of God for us and for the lost! (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4, John 3:16-17) We can get comfortable in our lives and lose track of the whole point of God’s entire history with people:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope ~ the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14)

To bring us back into fellowship with Him so He does not need to say to us, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9, 1 John 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:9, 2 Cor. 13:14)

Like those persistent waves crashing on the shore, God is persistent and insistent on reaching people with His redeeming grace and love! It’s a light-filled desire full of Power!  We have a host of “reasons” why reaching out to others is not for us ~ it’s too hard, we’re not evangelists, we might be rejected, and the list can go on. But this is where God our Provider helps us with the same power in His heart for the lost; here is where part of that mysterious Gal. 2:20 comes into “play”: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  So, reaching to and sharing with the lost is not all on us: for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

Turn in His direction, say “Yes, Lord, here I am!” and let Him reach through you to those who need His love, life, and salvation in them! For from His fullness we have all received, grace after grace.

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