I was around ten years old when I first heard the phrase “but for the grace of God, go I.” At the time, I couldn’t comprehend what it meant. I didn’t know if it was some movie quote, an Appalachian colloquialism, or a spiritual statement.
Now I am fully aware of the deep meaning of this statement. Allegedly it comes from a mid-sixteenth-century statement by John Bradford, in reference to a group of prisoners being led to execution. It is a statement of somber humility, it acknowledges that if it was not for the grace of God in our lives, we could end up just like prisoners on death row. Bradford was said to be paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 15:8-10, which states, “Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am…”.
The more I am involved with ministry, the more I realize, we are all a mess. Some of us are better organized messes than others. But we are all flawed and often selfish.
As an extremely small example, I have a sweet-tooth. That’s putting it lightly, I may have a mouth full of “sweet” teeth. When that donut sign says, “Hot & Ready” it speaks to me. I’ve tried to control the cravings but I usually lose. So, I think to myself, what if I would’ve started smoking earlier in my life? Would I have the willpower to stop? I really doubt it. What if I started drinking when I was younger? What if I would’ve made a few bad decisions? I could be in a completely different circumstance than I am now.
The bad news is, you are messed up.
The worse news is, we all are.
The good news is, God’s love for us has overcome the mess.
I am thankful for the blessings in my life. I am thankful for the people, the accomplishments, the moments of clarity. I am thankful for the learning experiences, the lessons, the heartbreak, the disappointments. But I am also thankful that God’s grace has kept me away from things that could’ve taken me down.
And as different as we all are, I am thankful that no one is any better than the other.
No one is more loved by God than another.
And no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace.