(We’d sung the song by Matt Redman, Your Grace Finds Me, as a congregation many times, but one Sunday last summer, the words in the refrain impacted me differently.
Your grace finds me;
Yes, Your grace finds me!
Since that Sunday, I keep being reminded of ways God’s grace has found me in the past, finds me in the present, and I’m assured, will continue to find me in the future.)
For the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring different aspects of grace. My hope and prayer is that as I’ve shared stories about how grace has found me, you will recall how grace has found you.
Today concludes this series of blog posts. My final story is one of the most difficult, and yet, one of the most grace-filled stories of my life.
It began on a warm August day when I was 23 years old. My young husband and I were embarking on a brand new season, and my heart was filled with anticipation. When we married, he was in the Navy. We had lived apart most of our married life because of his two deployments to Viet Nam.
I remained in Rhode Island during the second deployment because I liked my job at a hospital in Providence. Now, my husband was discharged, and we were returning to our home in Spokane, Washington—to friends, family and a hope-filled future.
We were three hours from home. I was writing a postcard to my Rhode Island friend when the accident occurred.
65 miles per hour.
The impact slammed my head into the car’s steel dashboard, crushing most of the bones on the right side of my face. Later, we found the blood-splattered post card I was writing. I kept that reminder!
I don’t remember the accident. I remember only a couple of incidents during the five days I spent in Intensive Care. After eight days in the Missoula, Montana, hospital, I was released to go home on the condition I’d be seen every day by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. The doctor’s office set a special appointment for me during the last part of their lunch break before regular afternoon office hours.
My face was a mess! The skilled surgeon in Missoula removed bone from my forehead in order to reconstruct my right cheek. My nose had split down the middle. Ugly red scars marred both my cheek and nose. My right eye was swollen shut for many weeks. “You may or you may not have sight in that eye,” I was told. Only time would tell. Eventually, the swelling subsided, and sometime after that, most vision was restored.
Memories following the accident are rather fuzzy, even though I do recall feeling an incredible sense of wellbeing—like being swaddled in a warm blanket of kindness. Once when hearing Psalm 23, the words, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” reminded me of that post-accident peace.
It wasn’t until many months later that the full impact of what happened hit me emotionally.
I remember the night well.
Earlier in the evening, I’d seen a picture of me that had been taken under a rather bright light. The image sickened my soul.
I recall throwing my body, face down onto our bed, sobbing uncontrollably. “Why, God? Why did you let this happen to me? Why? Why?” When no more tears could be cried, I fell asleep. No one noticed the next day I’d been crying because my face was already blotchy red and swollen.
Some thirty years later I was invited to speak to a group of women at a Mother’s Day luncheon and was asked to tell some of my story. Thoughts returned to that time of crying and questioning God. “You never did answer my question, ‘Why?’” I reminded God.
It was then I remembered another incident. It occurred several weeks after I’d asked God, “Why?” I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, examining my face. This time, my conversation was with me. “Okay, Susan,” I spoke sternly to the image staring back. “This is the face you have now. Learn to deal with it!”
Never before had I made a connection between these two distinct events. The ‘still small Spiritual voice’ I’ve heard at times in my human spirit, whispered.
“My grace was sufficient, Susie!”
(When I was a little girl, those who loved me most called me “Susie,” and I imagine God calls me “Susie” when He speaks to me.)
Yes, after all those years, I realized this. God’s grace had been sufficient! Even though my face never returned to its normal state, I’ve rarely felt concerned about my appearance. I learned to coach my hairdresser on an acceptable length for my bangs in order to cover the dent in my forehead. I experimented with makeup techniques and concealers to soften the scars on my nose and cheek. The scars, though for the most part faded, remain—a reminder of God’s grace.
Point of Grace sings, “Heal the wound, but leave the scar.” I’ve lived those lyrics literally!
The sufficiency of God’s grace healed my physical wounds in a way surprising many physicians, but the real healing was that of my emotional wounds—healing which enabled me to move on instead of remaining stuck in my pain, struggling with lifelong insecurity.
I want to close this series on grace with a great story about the Apostle Paul, found in 2 Corinthians. Paul said he begged God to take away a ‘thorn in his flesh.’ This is Paul’s amazing insight:
Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NKJV)
Thank you, God, for your great grace during our times of greatest need. Whatever pain or thorny situation the person reading these words may be experiencing, please give the assurance that your grace is sufficient! Amen
Sometimes the trajectory of our life journey takes us up steep paths. Climbing each step is an effort. While never easy, these times become opportunities to showcase the sufficiency of God’s grace! (My nephew, Tony Strobel, knows I’m always looking for meaningful “path pix.” He took this photograph while at Seabrook, a little beach community on the Washington Coast. Thanks, Tony!)
Praying God will give you sufficient grace for your journey…