Thursday, June 9, 2011

People, Places, and Grace

This past week I was ordained as an elder in the United Methodist Church. For those who don't know, the process of becoming ordained in the Methodist church is a lengthy one. It typically takes 6-10 years. Needless to say, the ordination service is a big/emotional moment. A month before the service, those of us being ordained had a retreat with our bishop. During that time, we were each asked to share our faith journey with the group.

When I began to think of my faith journey, three words immediately jumped to my mind: people, places, and grace. I tried to think of another “p” word that could replace grace. Then I would have a solid 3 point outline with three words beginning with the letter P. However, I’ve never been good at that so I kept the word grace. 

But I immediately thought of people, because neither our callings nor our ministries happen in isolation. God has constantly surrounded me with people who have mentored me, encouraged me, and supported me. I think about my youth ministers and pastors who saw gifts in me that I didn’t see in myself. These were individuals I could learn from and serve with. I think about professors and fellow students who have both inspired and challenged me. I think of good friends who have helped me and held me accountable over the years. I think about my family…my wife and my daughter who have taught me so much about God’s love and goodness.

Second, when I reflect on my faith journey I think about places. In the Old Testament, God’s people made a practice of piling large rocks as monuments to the Lord’s provision. These monuments were to be reminders of God’s faithfulness. While I’ve never piled rocks onto each other, there are certain locations and places that remind me of God’s goodness. Blue Lake is one of them…I attended youth camp there four straight years. It is also the place where God originally called me into the ministry. I think about the churches I’ve served at and the schools I've attended…places where God has shaped my faith and ministry. Like the stone monuments of the Israelites, these locations remind me that there is a God who never fails, never leaves, and never forgets his promises.

The third word that comes to my mind in my faith journey is grace. Paul says in 1 Corinthians: “By the grace of God, I am who I am.” I share that same sentiment. As I look back on who I was and the direction I was heading, it is truly amazing that I am here right now. Not that I’m perfect, but only God’s grace can explain the change that has occurred within me. My life simply does not make sense apart from his presence and spirit. It is his grace that has saved me, guided me, and equipped me.