By Brooke Luby
I never understood Grace until I went to China. Actually I still don’t, but it fueled this immense desire to understand this concept, this beautiful reality that there is nothing I can do that will make God love me any more or any less. I am not sure how it all happened. It wasn’t as if I was addicted to porn or I had knifed anyone, it was just that I had wrong ideas of who God was. Grace was something sang about in a hymn, some powerful yet foreign word I knew I needed a real taste of, but I didn’t quite know how to get it.
I felt as though people my whole life had described Jesus to me. They sent me detailed descriptions, some closer then others. I had maybe seen a photo, a video or two. I had even had some times where we did meet face to face, but my vision was somehow still skewed. I had ideas about His features that weren’t quite true to what He really looked like, or worse, I had conflicting images, as if God was two-faced.
One face, was the long bearded long faced law focused God of the old Testament. He did things like command people to destroy whole people groups, turn poor unsuspecting women into piles of salt, and made sure people feared Him. It wasn’t necessarily that He is mean, He just does what He wants. After all, He is God. I saw the justice in this moses look alike and respected that. I couldn’t really relate to Him, but He was supposed to be the judge.
I saw Jesus as the friendlier face. God’s son, sent to save the world from sin because He loves us. Simple, right? This, I thought was the relate-able side of God. His son was a picture of Grace, love, beauty and all those things my heart longed for. No longer was this God of the old Testament needed. But what I couldn’t understand is why people constantly used one or the other for there own arguments and agenda.
“But God is just. He poured out His wrath on so and so. He is Holy and can’t stand sin.”
“But God is Grace, man. You are covered! Jesus died, don’t worry about it, stop being so legalistic.”
I couldn’t get passed the idea that it seemed so schizophrenic. What did I even believe anymore? How could both these faces be true at the same time?
At that point in my life, I was at a major intersection. Not just in what I believed, but where my life was heading. I had just come off of two and a half years of living on a bus touring across the country, helping put on large youth events for a well-known ministry. I was drained and sick of ministry, wondering what my identity was apart from being on tour, and what in the world God had for me next. The opportunity came up to go to China for two months, and I knew I needed to do it. It’s funny out of all places to have a revelation of His Grace, God would chose a communist nation known for persecuting Christians. But China is rapidly Changing, I saw as I made my way from the East to the West with a team of eight, trying to capture the essence of this change on film. As I let go of stereotypes and opened my mind, I began to experience a freedom much like the country I was traveling through was beginning to taste.
I have come to one conclusion: I know next to nothing about life, about the world. I am a beginner in the class room on how to love- but you are the best teacher! My heart is warm I can feel you changing me rapidly as liquid grace is dripping into my blood stream. There is something about this place. Away from all the noise of my own life, although I am placed in a new kind of noise, it is different. I am seeing my life more clearly. Seeing myself, seeing others. Seeing you. The smog has lifted for one moment and all is blue. Not that I can see the details anymore then before, its just that the details dont matter so much anymore. What does? Here and now, and I know its only you. The doors to my mind have been flung wide open, now You can come in however you wish.
As I let go of my life, I let go of the images I had of God and asked Him to re-define Himself in my life. I didn’t want to just go by the Sunday School stories or theological interpretations. Nor did I want to go by some emotional experience I had in the past. I just wanted the real thing.
It came in a hotel room on Gulou street in a city called Tianjin, that I fondly recall as our home for six weeks. It came from the starkness of having nothing to hold onto, it came from the relationships surrounding me, and from a book that left me weeping at cussing and feeling that somehow I had been lied to my whole life.
Suddenly, it was as if I had brand new glasses and the whole world was clear.
The God of the old and new Testament is the same God.
God has always been about pouring out His mercy on His people.
The gospel is a love. The gospel is that there is nothing I can DO!
He leveled the playing field. The prostitute and the nun are in the same boat-
maybe the prostitute is actually better off because she sees her need for Jesus.
We need to need God.
Suddenly, it was as if I a strong flashlight shone in the dark corners of the bible that didn’t make any sense before. The dark corners of my life. I cried. I cussed. But most of all,
As God began to reveal His Grace,
years of bondage,
of thinking I am not good enough
of being afraid to be happy,
fell to the floor.
I laughed in my sleep. His joy became my strength. I ended the paranoid existence of being
so afraid of messing up, that I don’t actually enjoy life.
Freedom came, in this communist country, in a city and street with a painful, bloody past.
On Chinese New Year, after a huge feast of dumplings and other delicacies, at a friends house, I decided to meet midnight alone. I went exited on the roof of the hotel from the vacant third floor, and sat bundled in the fridgid February air. The skyline was on fire, literally. Fireworks covered the sky like bombs in a war zone, the atmosphere energetic and thick with smoke. Color flashed constantly and I laughed like a child on the fourth of July. I wrote this in my journal:
Color. Light. Heat. Explosion. The cold lingers on me from sitting on the roof the past half hour.
From where I sat, I could see Tianjin stretched out before me.
High rise apartments and their multicolored windows shining.
Darkness surrounded me. But in that darkness, bursts of color all around.
Red, green and gold. These are the colors of my new paradigm.
Cold chilled me, but the warmth in my chest far surpassed February in China.
A burst of heat knowing that I am loved and life is beautiful and full and just beginning. Boom! Another explosion and I giggle again. You are full of surprises and mystery, of sudden bursts of light in the darkness. Sitting on a rooftop in China alone on the most important night for them, I am struck by the irony that I should feel alone, yet I am so content, I could explode. Bam!
The brilliance of Your grace intrigues me, fascinates me, leaves me stunned oohing and aahing.
Sometimes the voice of truth comes as a single candle lit in the darkness,
this time, it came as Chinese fireworks.
If you liked this article, check out: Grace for Sale
Brooke is a full time missionary with Youth With A Mission
and wanna-be writer. I love to write things that challenge the status quo of Christian culture, and give people a glimpse of the adventure it is to follow Christ.