My mom has told me a story over and over about God’s gifts of His grace and I want to share it now because finally in my own walk I see the light.
There was a man who lived his life without seeing God, hearing God or even feeling like God knew he existed. He never experienced God in his whole life. He died and went to heaven and was being led by Peter, who was a disciple of Jesus, and Peter took him to a storehouse full of gifts. The man asked Peter, “What’s all this?” Peter replied,” It’s all God’s gifts to you in your life that you didn’t receive. God’s grace toward you. You never opened even one.” The man looked with amazement and wished he had paid attention to his life! He wanted to go back and live fully, live the life Jesus promised us through our faith in Him. But now it was too late, his life was over, oh how he wished for a “do over!” The good news is this: You, who are reading this story, you still have time! You can start receiving your gifts of grace right now and the first one is God’s gift of Jesus Christ. You have to repent, which means giving up your way and taking on Jesus’ way.
I am going to try to explain what has happened to me in the past few months that has led me to the full life in Jesus Christ. What I have experienced this past week is life changing. What I have learned made me remember this story my mom told me many times and I never understood it. I never understood what the gifts were and how there could be so many! I realized this morning that there are many layers to understanding something.
During this past month I have been on a search or quest to experience God in all the moments of my life. I have tastes of His presence and it’s so good that I never want it to end. I was drawn to frequencies and thought that was how to experience God all the time, if I was on His frequency I would feel Him. I thought learning Hebrew or Latin or learning how to sing the Gregorian Chant would bring me closer to Him. I bought a lot of books to help me figure this out even one on prayer. If I could pray enough, pray all through the day I would experience Him. None of this is the answer. Now I know when I sing to God in praise I feel His presence but I can’t do that all day, it’s unrealistic. We do have lives to live and responsibilities. What I wanted was to feel His presence ALL THE TIME. I even finally resorted to believing that it’s impossible to “feel” God all the time. I was starting to believe what religion says that you can’t feel God all the time. That we live by faith and not feeling which is true to some degree but I needed more. One of the books I was led to buy was Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts. I was also led to do her Lent devotion Trail to the Tree. The timing of doing the Lent devotion and then when I actually got the book was unbelievable! What I was reading in the Lent devotion was setting me up to receive the book. Even through all the searching before, God was preparing me to read this book. She has a lot of similarities in her book to what God had been showing me.
What Ann asks in her book is, do you want to come to the end of your life and realize you didn’t live fully? That you were empty the whole time? My answer was a definite no. I had already been searching for the full life! and now could I actually have the answer right in my hands? The answer to everything?! She explains that she was on a dare to write down 1000 things that she loves. As she did this she realized she was writing down God’s gifts to her. She discovered a word eucharisteo, which means grace, thanksgiving, joy. She learned Jesus practiced this. Jesus has shown us the way to a full life by His demonstration of thanks to God before anything He did. Ann says the miracle always comes after the giving of thanks. By writing down what I notice that I love I am actually receiving God’s gifts of His grace toward me. It’s His love for me transformed into something I can see, feel, touch. This awareness and the naming of the moment causes the moment to become holy. Through these gifts recognized I am experiencing God. I am receiving His gifts by writing them down and thanking Him by acknowledging these moments as gifts of grace. It brings great joy to do this! I know it’s hard to believe but it’s real and I am experiencing it. You have to read this book and practice this to know what I mean. There was a dream I had recently about grace also. I told my dad that the hardest thing to learn about salvation is grace. I woke up wondering, what does this mean! Ann has answered it! By thanking God for the moments, the people, the things that I love as they come into my life I am learning grace! The practice of this is learning grace! I have done this for almost one whole week now and last night the story my mom used to tell me came to my mind. It finally clicked! The gifts in the storehouse were all the moments, people and things God gave him that he didn’t notice! All the ways God tried to communicate with him, to get his attention and he never got it. Because he never noticed, he never experienced God. His life was empty.
This practice has opened up a new life to me! I used to think when my mom told this story, ” What gifts?” “What exactly is grace?” I know the Bible says it’s God’s unmerited favor, but what is it tangibly? Now I know and when I told her today what I have learned and now I know what the gifts were in the storehouse we both cried tears of joy!