Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"I Am the Wretch"

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.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

The all too familiar lyrics of a hymn so dear to our hearts, was penned by a man named John Newton. Though many stories circulate about the origin of the song, it is best to say that it was written sometime during the 1770s. If you have never read the story of Newton, I would highly suggest it to anyone. Many find it hard to believe that Newton, the author of such a beautiful song as Amazing Grace, could have ever been a slave trader. When I first heard this claim I was appalled as I couldn't believe that was true. But I suppose that is where the notion of this Amazing Grace comes in. It doesn't really matter who we are or what we've done, we are all recipients of God's Amazing Grace.

Let's think about this word 'wretch' and what it really means to be such a person. The Oxford American Dictionary defines wretch as "an unfortunate or unhappy person." The OAD Thesaurus uses the following words as alternatives for wretch: "poor creature, poor soul, poor thing, poor unfortunate, poor devil, scoundrel, villain, ruffian, rogue, criminal, miscreant, good for nothing, lowlife, rat, creep, heel, scumbag" and much more.

Wow. What a truck full of nasty things to label someone and to think the writer of this song gave himself this label. How many of us could humble ourselves to the point where we could say, "I Am the Wretch?" That would mean of course, that you would be saying that you are the unfortunate, the miscreant, the good for nothing, the lowlife, etc. It's not really a comfortable thing to do, this self reflection, is it?

I don't think we can be so negative as to see ourselves always in such a devalued light as that of a wretch. However, if we look hard enough and maybe in some cases not hard at all, we can think of times in our lives when we were indeed the wretch in all forms of the term. I can think of some pretty dark places I have been, some pretty lowlife things I have done and some pretty ugly times of unhappiness. But it was indeed in those times that I came face to face with God's grace. God could have left me there. But He didn't. I could still be that same lost, confused and eternally angry girl who hated the world, everyone in it and myself. But I'm no longer her. I carry her scars, her battle wounds and they remind me of where I've been. They remind me that I was in a very horrible place and doing things, like Newton, that were despicable. But it wasn't too horrible a place for God. He came to me, met me where I was at, cleaned my wounds and loved me with the most beautiful grace I will ever know.

Have you been there? Have you been that wretch and were you saved? If you're still there, know this, God is with you. All you have to do is welcome Him in. If you have been rescued from that dark place and have been touched by that Amazing Grace that you know you didn't deserve, than you know you have a bigger commission on your life. That kind of grace isn't meant to be silenced. Wear it on your chest. Proudly give testimony to the fires you've walked through and stretch out your hand to those who are still in need of help. Help them to let God in.

This is the time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior...of our Amazing Grace in the flesh. Remember that you are the wretch that little baby came for. So is the person next to you, the family member you've hurt, the friend you've forgotten, the stranger you ignore, the co-worker you gossip about. So is the spouse you adore, the children you love, the friends you cherish, the poor you feed. Your grace melts into the grace of others and becomes a family of wretches all saved.

Take time today to thank God for reaching you when no one else could. Take time to remember where you've been. Think about where you're at and where you're going. Do a word study in your Bible's index and read all the scriptures that correlate with the term 'grace'.

Live out the Amazing Grace you've been given.

Romans 6:14
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Romans 11:6
And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

1 Corinthians 1:3
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Revelation 1:5
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.


Becky said...

my Aunt used to call me Rebecca the wretch....lovingly of course

Francois said...

What an awesome post Tiffany, I think it might be my favourite of yours so far!

The lyrics to one of my favourite Casting Crowns songs perfectly fits in with your post. The song is East to West and please forgive me for posting the whole thing but I really feel like it belongs with this post.

"Here I am, Lord, and I'm drowning in your sea of forgetfulness
The chains of yesterday surround me
I yearn for peace and rest
I don't want to end up where You found me
And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight
I know You've cast my sin as far as the east is from the west
And I stand before You now as though I've never sinned
But today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Jesus, can You show me just how far the east is from the west
'cause I can't bear to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other

I start the day, the war begins, endless reminding of my sin
Time and time again Your truth is drowned out by the storm I'm in
Today I feel like I'm just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

I know You've washed me white, turned my darkness into light
I need Your peace to get me through, to get me through this night
I can't live by what I feel, but by the truth Your word reveals
I'm not holding on to You, but You're holding on to me
You're holding on to me

Jesus, You know just how far the east is from the west
I don't have to see the man I've been come rising up in me again
In the arms of Your mercy I find rest
'cause You know just how far the east is from the west
From one scarred hand to the other
One scarred hand to the other
From one scarred hand to the other"

I have listened to this song many times feeling like "I am one mistake away from You leaving me this way" but you know what, God never left me, even when I felt further away from Him than ever before.

Thanks again for this awesome reminder.

God bless ya!

Woman on a Mission said...

Becky - That's too funny. Don't you just love family?

Francois - I love that song too. I listen to often. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. I've never stopped to read the lyrics and it has touched me in a new way today. Bless you!

Esthermay said...

There is never enough to be said about the Cross of Christ. It's sad that many churches are afraid to preach it anymore.
Thank you for your boldness. AMEN!
And I'd love to find this T-shirt for my husband!
Kindest Thoughts,
~ esthermay @The Heart of a Pastor's Wife

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