Today, I am uncharacteristically happy. Even though many of the annoying, joy-robbing pressures, responsibilities and upsets of daily life are clawing at me from every side, there is an unusual sense of peace keeping them all at bay.
— There is the dreaded, expanding file folder I try to keep out of sight in the closet when I can. It is growing fatter and fatter on a steady diet of letters from The Internal Revenue Service, telling me I owe them money from three tax seasons ago.
Those letters are joined by copies of letters and accompanying documents I’ve been sending The IRS, disputing many of the agency’s claims. Their responses — to my responses to them — make it seem as if each of us is speaking a language the other doesn’t understand. Or doesn’t want to understand.
Needless to say, it is frustrating.
— Also, I am a writer, and lately, I’ve run into a string of magazine and book editors who seem to initially like what I submit, praise it, but spend a lot more time than usual making a decision on whether to purchase it. And, in the end, they come up with hollow reasons why the material is just not for them, or that they don’t believe they can “do justice to it.”
— Let’s not leave out the extremely taxing ordeal of the succession of tall pine trees that — since being struck by lighting a little over a year ago — have been taking turns falling across my yard, blocking the driveway and, at least on one occasion, severing a power line.
More than 10 have fallen, or had to be cut down, in the last several months. Still others are leaning precariously, and must be dealt with. Having trees removed is not cheap.
— There are also other reasons why I would normally be in the dumps: We recently discovered that an air conditioning unit at the home of one of my daughters was contaminated with black mold, and was the likely reason my young grandson is having terrible breathing problems, monstrous coughing spells and symptoms that mystified his doctors and caused him to miss several weeks from school last year.
And it seemed the mysterious illness would force him to miss more school time this year. That is, until the problems with the dangerously faulty unit were discovered. The issue then became how to pay for replacing it, especially after we got the news that the company responsible for the warranty on the house denied my daughter’s claim and refused to replace the air conditioner and its tubing and ducts. After vociferous complaints, the company’s “magnanimous” gesture was an offer to pay $400 of the $6,500 cost.
Normally, that would send me into a sticky, dark, melancholy mood, sapping my energy, making it extremely difficult to push through the normal challenges of the day.
But today is different. I awoke this morning with a feeling of peace. And I know why: God’s grace. Jesus, the savior-redeemer, high priest and elder brother of those who believe in Him and accept Him as Lord, is always true to his word.
Through God’s grace — and surely His love for us — my daughter came up with the money. The old air conditioning unit and its extensive duct work are gone; banished to the scrap-metal junkyard. A new system is in place. My daughter and grandson are breathing easier.
And so am I, even though I don’t live in that house.
For me, even in the face of fickle editors, falling trees, challenging government agencies, the annoying aches and pains of advancing age, I can feel the breath of Jesus, like a whisper of joy, blowing gently over me. And nothing I’ve done makes me deserve such grace.
No matter what I do, I will never earn it or deserve it. But that’s what God’s grace is — unmerited favor. Even though I don’t deserve it, I accept it — welcome it — and am thankful for it. I am thankful for days like this, knowing that a sinful, imperfect man like me, who has often been disappointed with God when things didn’t go his way, can still be granted a day like today, when — even with the ramparts of trouble and dismay slamming against his bow — can wake up feeling at peace and spend the day with his heart and mind at ease.
Only God can provide that. Only He has the awesome power and love to bestow such a gift on me, a “believer” who was confused and upset with Him when my mother died eight years ago, after breast cancer invaded her body a third time. I watched cancer ravage her. She shriveled from 127 pounds to 70. But she never lost faith. Her favorite piece of scripture was the 23rd Psalm.
She wound recite it often. My mother didn’t just know the Psalm, however, she knows The Shepherd.
Two months after she left us, when my older brother had a massive stroke and died, I was shaken again, and wondered why a loving God would allow this double whammy.
We sometimes confuse God with Santa Claus, a creation of man who must live up to our wishes and desires. He answers to us.
But we didn’t create God; He created us and knows us better than we know ourselves and — get this — loves us anyway.
Because of that and more, I want to be — and am striving to be — an “even-if” Christian; one who puts his faith and love in the God of the Holy Bible, even if He doesn’t grant a wish that seemingly means the world to me. And even when he doesn’t protect me from a natural disaster, a dreaded physical ailment, vicious accusations or career-ruining lies.
I want to be a man of faith, who trusts that God doesn’t make mistakes and that He knows what’s best for me, even though His path for me may not match the path I might choose. I have to constantly remind myself that even the very faith I have in Him is a gift from Him.
Today, I am wallowing in God’s joy and the warmth and gentle whisper of His love. And that’s fine with me.