God is with us, always. God is with you, always, God is with me, always.
God is with us when he answers prayer. He is with us when it feels as though prayer is not being answered. He is with us when we can’t find words for our prayers – and He with us when we don’t pray at all. That’s because neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Bloggers have been challenged by James Prescott, the author of the upcoming book, Mosaic of Grace: God’s Beautiful Reshaping of Our Broken Lives, to blog about what grace means to them. A section of my own book, Everything to God in Prayer: A Writer’s Weekly Devotional, shares exactly that. Here it is.
In January 2013, I needed to have 18 inches of my colon removed. Although the surgery was unpleasant, I was assured that it was successful and that I’d soon be feeling much better. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. And, by the time the resulting complications were discovered – over the Fourth of July weekend – the surgeon told me that, without emergency surgery, I might not survive the night.
It was a holiday weekend, remember, so the surgery department was closed. As I was being wheeled into the operating room, the surgeon was flipping on light switches and the medical team was bustling about. My body was bloated with disease and all was uncertain.
I briefly closed my eyes and, although I could still hear what was going on, I felt instantly transported to a sunny beach, sitting crossed legged on warm sand under a bright blue sky. I could hear the waves lapping against the sand and I could smell the earthiness of the beach and the tang of the water. I felt myself scoop up two handfuls of sand and hold them up to the sky.
As the crystalized grains of sand slowly fell back down to the earth, I felt myself saying, “It’s all in your hands, God.” In my vision, I felt myself smiling and, although I never saw any image of God, I certainly felt the reassuring returning smile.
So, I was totally at peace going into my surgery, which was an amazing gift. The eternal truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God – well, at that moment, I could touch that truth, see it, hear it, taste it, smell it. It was that real and nothing has been the same, ever since.
I love the concept of a mosaic of grace – and here is what I had to say about mosaics in my book:
My hometown – Lorain, Ohio – is known as the International City in honor of the large numbers of immigrants who settled here because of manufacturing jobs in steel, ship building, auto assembly and more. Although many manufacturing plants have closed or shrunk in size, Lorain remains rich in ethnic and cultural diversity.
One well known Lorain native who takes pride in this diversity is Nobel Prize-winning and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison. She has also been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom – and so our city is justifiably proud of Morrison, as well, naming the reading room at the Lorain Public Library’s main branch after her.
In 2015, the library decided to decorate the reading room with a mosaic. They contracted with a mosaic artist but, rather than having her create the artwork, she oversaw the efforts of community members who came in to each create their own small sections of the mosaic.
My son, Ryan, and I participated. While you were working on the mosaic, all you could focus on was your own little area of blue or green or brown, intently gluing your shattered pieces next to other broken pieces. But, if you climbed the stairs to the second story of the library, you could begin to see the formation of the waves of lake water, the expansiveness of the sky, the gleaming of the sun.
You could see people enjoying a boat ride down Lorain’s Black River, smile at the birds soaring above the Bascule Bridge – and appreciate the open book added to the mosaic as a reminder that books connect us to our world. In other words, the jagged pieces/parts began to look like a full picture from this higher perspective.
Think how wonderful it would be if, in life in general, all you needed to do was take a few steps back or climb a set of stairs to see the full picture! Think how many hurt feelings this could prevent, how many arguments it could save, how many dead ends you could avoid. But, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The reality is that only God can see all. The challenge, then, is to continue to develop trust in God, even when life isn’t going well, relying on fellow Christians for support – and then supporting other people whenever you can.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (I Corinthians 13:12)
Praise God for the unending gift of grace!