【Letters From Jun】Life is the Song of Amazing Grace

Today I want to talk about the grace of God from a hymn that touched me to help us know God more deeply.

One may live for a few decades before facing death. Most people say that all good or bad things will eventually end in life and death. Every day that passes implies we lose some time, and we get a little closer to the end of our lives. People can’t choose their arrival and return dates, and the time in between fill with worries, fear, and overwhelming, especially when we experience the ups and downs of the world.

As King Solomon wrote:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.”

  What do people gain from all their labors

  at which they toil under the sun?

   Generations come and generations go,

 but the earth remains forever.

 The sun rises and the sun sets,

 and hurries back to where it rises.

  The wind blows to the south

   and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea,

yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from,

there they return again.

   All things are wearisome,

more than one can say.

The eye never has enough of seeing,

nor the ear its fill of hearing.

   What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:2-9

I am not a person who quickly moves, mainly because I have seen through the world that everything is vanity. However, God’s grace and goodness touched me in a specific setting. This inspiration makes me feel that life should be full of warmth and integrity, and I should always see life in its full bloom.

In October 1995, the heavy rain overnight brought by Tropical Hurricane Opal devastated the small town in southern Alabama where I went to school. All shops were closed for the next two weeks, and fallen trees blocked all traffic on the road; several trees, which were so big that two could not hold, were uprooted. The tree pits filled with rain water, classes were suspended, electricity was off, and snapped telephone lines. We were afraid that the hot weather would spoil the limited amount of meat and food in the fridge, so we had to get rid of it quickly, but how would we get through the next few days?

Isn’t the situation at that time just like our lives?

Storms often happen in our lives. We are not able to change and are helpless, only endless sighs. However, although we may feel insignificant during difficult circumstances, God never abandons us. What a marvelous grace that He inspired someone like an angel with whom we had no interactions to help us!

The sister of the First Baptist Church next to our house came with her three sons the day after the tropical storm. She brought us food and candles after learning what we needed. She helped us with our physical needs and brightened our nights. After that, she kept getting us food until the store opened and school resumed. We talked, but I wondered why she would help without the expectation of being repaid. It is because we always thought there was no “love” without strings attached, and I didn’t know what “grace” was at the time.

When I went to church for the first time, I entered in shorts, a T-shirt, and slippers, as it was hot. But the congregation inside was well-dressed, and I felt embarrassed. Finally, however, everyone came to greet me and hug me. At this moment, the pipe organ started, and the choir started singing a hymn in parts.  The melody sounded familiar, but I needed to learn the song’s name.  Amidst the singing and organ played through the vast pipes, I felt a wonderful atmosphere of inner peace and space. I was no longer panicked or embarrassed. The light’s refraction in the church also drew my attention to the cross on the stage. While the choir was singing this hymn repeatedly, it allowed me to find the divine sense of spiritual goodness and inner needs.

This hymn, “Amazing Grace,” was praised repeatedly and inspired me to start a new way of thinking about life: Each of us should have been able to enjoy the peace and goodness God has given us, but this world makes it impossible to seek peace. Instead, we are often injured or hurt while trying to find a way out. The movements and verses of the song lead my meditation further. I thought of my days, my study in the United States, and my future work and life. Isn’t it the ultimate goal to hope my life will be with this kind of peace, warmth, and strength?

On this very day, the grace of God and my life collided and met, and it touched my soul.

John Newton wrote this hymn more than 200 years ago, accompanied by a soul tune of the American African in the South. It was and still is an immensely popular and beautiful hymn sung nowadays. Its author, John Newton, called himself a “wretch” and did not deserve the grace of God, but Jesus put His grace upon him. He was astonished when he learned that Jesus Christ loved sinners deeply and died for them. As he accepted Jesus as the Savior of his life, he wrote this hymn in praise of God’s grace. Once, he wrote, ‘Among your children, you gave a blasphemer a name and a place to live, and you called upon an unbeliever to be a preacher of Your Gospel. How poor and shameful I was, wandering naked, without a home and friends; I was always on the run, and people around me treated me like a dog, but You prepared a home for me to live in.’

And all the goodness he experienced, just like us, the children of God in different times and spaces had experienced, is not outside God’s grace.

When life does not connect to God’s beauty and goodness, we can get lost in this world. Only the grace of God can bring out the way to peace of the soul. Regretfully people are busy chasing after their earthly living. The sweetness of grace and all it brought gradually diminishes, even with nothing left. Thus only the sweat, toil, and sorrow remain over the years. Only when I realize I am a sinner and need Jesus Christ to bear my sins for me can I come to God the Father with confidence to receive more of God’s amazing grace.

Grace also allows us to practice our faith in God’s family. We are all followers of Jesus and can help and care for those who are traumatized, encountered hardships in life, and have fallen into a helpless predicament.  Through Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, we are all connected as one family. And because of Jesus, our hearts quieted, and our lives changed.

God has redeemed us.

Praise God for His mercy and redemption!