"But for grace... ." Grace is a gift that God extends for the purpose of nurturing human beings. It consists of love, mercy and serendipity. Serendipity is the vehicle that delivers nurturing fruits. Webster's Dictionary defines serendipity as "the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for." However, grace may produce good that we seek. Seek grace not, yet it will find us. The paradox is that we both choose grace and are chosen by grace.
The focus here is on my personal encounters with grace, i.e., experiences I have had when grace alone, rescued, supplied, protected, saved or catapulted me into obits of delight. Below I will cite four of the too numerous to mention situations and times when if it had not been for grace I would have been consumed in ways that would have rendered me debilitated, helpless or lifeless. In these situations grace was sufficient.
My first encounter to be highlighted when served by grace occurred shortly after my father died. I was fouteeen years old. My mother was left to raise two daughters, sixteen and eighteen years of age and four children younger than myself with miniscule resources. Surely, it was grace that enabled her to somehow and someway keep the family surviving. But here I am writing about my own encounter with grace. The year my father died was the first year I had to walk or thumb rides, in the hope that drivers of log trucks would pick me up, to attend school six miles from my home. Sometimes I had to walk the full distance. I was determined to continue my schooling. Two months after my sixteenth year I graduated from high school. Also in my home food was in short supply, much less than was adequate to nourish members in my family. "But for grace... ."
The second encounter when I was served by grace involved my military experience. About a week before my eighteenth birthday I enlisted to serve three years in the Army. I had served about two-thirds of my enlistment when the Korean War was declared. In the interest of National Security, more correctly, in the interest of defeating Communism, we were told, the Government extended my enlistment for one year. Less than a month later most of the soldiers in my Regiment were sent to Korea. I received orders to report to a newly reactivated Army camp to train, for the most part, conscripted recruits even though my MOS in artillery warfare prepared me to be sent with other soldiers to fight in the Korean War. "But for grace... ."
A third situation in my life where grace abounded occurred in Montgomery, Aabama during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. There were a number of situations relating to the bus boycott when grace was a present help that I could cite, but here I wish to focus on only one of them. While in the Army I promised myself that because of segregation I would not return to Alabama or the South to live. While in the military my hatred for segregation had increased. However, after living in Chicago for about six month, a city I really did like, but because I yearned to go to college even though I did not have the GI-Bill, I returned to Alabama and enrolled at Alabama State College (later University) which two of my sisters had attended, one having graduated and both were teaching at the time. I believed I could pay at least for one year of college. Not only was I elected president of the Freshman Class, later I was elected president of the Student College Council. Thanks in part to the GI-Bill that was enacted during my first year in college I received two degrees from that institution. While attending college I became the pastor of a church in Montgomery and a leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I served as original secretary of the Montgomery Improvement Association that provided organizational leadership for the bus boycott. While still living in in Montgomery I matriculated for three years at the Gammon Theological Seminary (later affiliated with the Interdenominational Theological Center) in Atlanta and graduated cum laude with a Master of Divinity Degree. "But for grace... ."
The fourth encounter of my being rescued by grace involved my experience as a defendant in the courts. Although I was involved as a defendant in four significant court cases, including one as a plaintiff in a housing discrimination case here I will only mention two cases in which I was a defendant.
The first case occurred during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, when there was an attempt by some disgruntled church members and several pastors - who did not approve of a statement I had made about the misappropriation of funds by some leaders of the bus boycott - to remove me as pastor of Bell Street Baptist Church where I had pastored for two years. During the trial the judge refused to issue an injunction my opposition sought that would bar me from the church and issued a ruling that each side select a master to conduct a vote of the membership to determined whether or not I would remain as pastor of the church. I received a majority of the votes and remained as the pastor of that church. Later the church was bombed by dire-hard segregationists in the wee hours of the morning as were three other churches and two parsonages. Under my pastoral leadership Bell Street Baptist Church was rebuilt. Sixteen months after the bombing the congregation held its first service in the new sanctuary.
The second court case occurred in California where after leaving Montgomery I lived for more than thrity years. A small city in Southern California denied missionaries of an organization I had founded and was serving as president a permit to perform missionary work in that city. We missionaries decided to exercise our constitutional right and proceeded to perform our missionary ministry in that city. I and three of my fellow-missionaries were arrested. During the trial held in the Municipal Court of Pasadena, the four of us were represented by Bevery Hills attorney George Baltaxe who had successfully handled my housing discrimination case. In a 19-page decision the judge stated, "The Sierra Madre City Code, as construe d and applied to the defendants are unconstitutional." Continuing he stated "The shogtgun attempt to cover totally divergent matters by the draftsmanship of the City of Sierra Madre Code....creates a vehicle for monstrous abuse of constitutional liberties which cannot be tolerated. The defendants are ordered discharged." The City of Sierra Madre appealed the decision in the District Court of Appeal. The Court refused to hear the case and stated, "...now therefore, it is hereby ordered that such trasnsfer (to the Court of Appeal) be and it hereby is denied." "But for grace... . "
I rest my case.
Now, during my September years, making plans, setting goals and giving attention to protocol are no longer considered by me to be worthy pursuits. Now, I embrace faith more strongly than before with the awareness and assurance that faith undergirded by grace is sufficient for living a full life. Now, I see clearly that much of what I considered heretofore to really matter does not matter, and that the spiritual, not the material, is what really matters, and is worthy to have preeminence in my life. Grace has been referred to as "amazing grace." This is also the title of a beloved song. Grace is a, if not, the miracle of miracles. It just maybe that grace is one of the three greatest miracles that ever happened that totally addresses the relationship of God and man. For a certainty, "It is not by might or by power." It is by grace. "But for grace... ."
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith...it is the gift of God. Eph.2:8
But where sin increased, grace increased all the more." Rom.5:20)
My grace is sufficent for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. II Cor.12.9
But by the grace of God I am what I am." I Cor 15:10
Copyright 2011 by Uriah J. Fields
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