The grace we're all looking for

Does this happen to anyone else?


You wake up in the morning, and there’s a song running through your head.


The song plays over and over in your head and you have a hard time getting rid of it.


And each day, the song is different.


Some days it’s a classic rock song. Other days it’s a catchy radio pop anthem. But another day you wake up to a country music tune, or it’s an orchestral symphony.


And perhaps it’s even a gospel music standard.


So there’s the song of the day, playing in an endless loop. Chosen by some unknown cosmic DJ, and you almost certainly wonder – why THIS song? Is there some reason this tune is playing in my head?


Is your subconscious somehow trying to tell you something? Is it truly by chance that THIS melody, perhaps one you haven’t heard in years, is suddenly broadcasting between your ears?


Or could God be trying to send a message?


This happened the other day – and the song was a familiar one. Anyone who’s been to church – or especially to a funeral - knows this song…


Amazing Grace.


Remember the lyrics?


Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see


The song has an interesting history. The words were written in 1772 by John Newton, and the story is pretty fascinating.


Newton, born in 1725 in Britain, had a rough and wild upbringing filled with lots of drink. He was eventually forced into the British Navy but tried to desert and was punished for it. Later he served on a slave trading ship and at one point was himself left in Africa as a slave.


After his rescue and on the voyage back to Britain, Newton’s ship was caught in a terrible storm. The weather punched a hole in the ship’s hull and it was a “miracle” that the craft survived. And you know about miracles – it makes you think that a divine hand interceded.


But for Newton, who then converted to Christianity, this wasn’t a lightning conversion. He actually remained a slave trader for some time, sending human cargo to the Americas, even after suffering a stroke in 1754 at the age of just 29.


Gradually Newton left the active slave trade and became an Anglican minister in 1764. He clearly had some talent for music – there’s a claim that he wrote some 280 songs for his own services. He penned his most famous hymn (the tune wasn’t wedded to the song until over 60 years later) and many others but it still took some time before he publicly renounced his former profession.


Not until 1788 did he publish a pamphlet detailing the horrors of slaving and it became a best seller, helping to lead England to outlaw the bondage of humans in 1807.


It was another twist of historical fate – the terrible slave trade was eventually abolished thanks to the efforts of a former slave trader.


Sadly here in America it took a blood drenched four year civil war to end slavery and over 50 years later.


You know the entertainment industry loves a good tale, so much so that a version was turned into a Broadway musical about Newton’s story in 2015 (with some dramatic and incorrect embellishments of course.)


In our twisting and turning world of today, could the lyrics of Amazing Grace have an added meaning?


Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind, but now I see


No one wants to be thought of as a wretch…but we all have our moments, don’t we? Times when we are truly lost, blindly searching for meaning or purpose. Noisy times blundering about until some moment of quiet clarity focuses us with the realization that God’s grace is there – always there – to save our day if we only take the time to listen.


'Twas grace that taught
My heart to fear
And grace my Fears relieved
How precious did
That grace appear
The hour I first believed


Older versions of the Bible mention “the fear of the Lord.” That doesn’t mean to be afraid of the Almighty but to revere Him. The Lord’s grace, a gift which none of us maybe deserve but He gives anyway, relieves any real fear. And for anyone who’s had the “ah hah” moment of realizing God’s incredible gifts to us, that moment is one to be cherished.


Through many dangers
Toils and snares
We have already come
'Twas grace hath brought
Us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home


Our world right now is going through quite a few “toils and snares.” We all know them, from personal to international. Who to believe? What to follow? Who to support? It isn’t hard to wonder if God has somehow abandoned us – those old “God is dead” rumors. And yet – He’s brought us through trials before, and He’s surely not going to abandon us now.


When we've been there
Ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We'll have no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun


What does the future hold? God knows but He never quite shows His hand. But we know Christ’s promise of eternal life in return for our faith in Him. Ten thousand years is but a blip in God’s eye and in history – but His grace continues. And we’ll sing those praises forever and ever.


Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind, but now I see


You’re humming the tune, aren’t you? Singing along? Five verses of a song from over 200 years ago. But they still speak to us today.


We have many important decisions to make in the coming months and years. In the cacophony of today’s society where every side tries to shout down others it’s easy to get distracted, WAY too much noise from all directions. Instead take the time to stop and seek that quiet clarity that only the Holy One provides. The answers are there. The grace doesn’t end.


And if the song in your head tomorrow is “I’ve got friends in loooooow places”…..well, there’s a message there too.


From George Churchgoer