“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;”
verse 2 of Amazing Grace
John Newton was facing sure death. As captain of a slave ship, torn apart by a storm at sea, he strapped himself to the helm to navigate but was facing death. That was John Newton. Easter evening the followers of Jesus huddled behind locked doors for fear of the people who had been chanting “crucify him” the day before. Would they be next? I was such a fearling as a child that the doctor told my parents to give me a coping skill. They chose swimming lessons. I was only about six. At the final lesson the instructor asked for a volunteer to go to the top of the high dive and jump. I so wanted my mother to be proud of me. I got to the top and it was a long way down. I couldn’t do it. Some people are afraid of dogs. Most all of us are afraid of something. So what fear has the power to paralyze you? A spider? Speaking infront of a group? Dark places? Walking under a ladder? Oh sigh, the list of potential phobias is very long.
The apostle Paul speaks into our fears. The message of Easter is that God took care of the separation between Him and his people. He is stronger than that which we fear. He knows, as do we, that we all fall short and cannot stand with our heads high before the God of the universe, our creator. We do not always live as our better selves. God chooses to give us salvation even when he knew we were sinners. He redeemed us or buy us back, as a gift for what happened on the cross.
“For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 3:23-24
John Newton did not deserve to live. Life became a gift in the face of death, not because of anything he could do about the raging storm but because of what God did. Newton still had to die one day years later but he saw God’s hand relieve his fear of death that night. Grace is realizing the giftedness of life in the face of our fears and failings. Let’s thank God today for a blessing we have in our life that speaks of his love for us and his creation – a friend, a child, a sunrise, a smile… thank you Lord for your grace.