Grace in Grey Areas
There are times where God’s work is black and white. Sometimes it isn’t difficult to say, “This is good” or “this is evil.” Cut and dry.
I don’t get to deal with very many of those.
There is a passage in the Bible that talks about God and the gifts that he gives us. He says that good parents aren’t mean. That, if their kids come to them and ask them for breakfast good parents don’t hand them poisonous snakes.
Sometimes the Bible is extreme.
I heard a sermon once that talked about that passage. The guy giving the talk said something like, “So, remember sometimes we don’t get what we want because good parents don’t give their kids snakes. Maybe the thing you’re asking God for is a snake.”
That lesson has really stuck with me. Sometimes we pray for things that we only see as good, but might actually be harmful to us– money, power, lovers, comfort. So, when we aren’t handed those things, we are upset with God about that, but in actuality he might be protecting us.
This is what I am talking about when I say that sometimes Grace and gifts from God can often fall into a grey area. I’ll share some stories.
I once knew a crack-head who got pregnant. She wasn’t exactly prostituting herself, but the situation that impregnated her wasn’t entirely consenting and there was some transaction involved.
She dreaded what it meant to have a child. She knew that as soon as she sought any pre-natal care that she would be cornered and the medical professionals would seek to send her to rehab- something she was not interested in at all.
Eventually, several months into her pregnancy, she miscarried.
I had never had mixed feelings about a miscarriage before, but I did about this one. On one hand, it is sad that a life was cut short. On the other hand, I beleive there was a level of grace that delivered that child from being born into that life and having to deal with those struggles.
I have a friend who ministers to prostitutes. She drives around Detroit meeting, getting to know and praying for friends she makes on the streets who are prostitutes.
She was telling me one day that it isn’t uncommon to develop a relationship with those women for months, then finally they accept Jesus in their lives and decide to follow him. Once they do, however, she says they die pretty quickly.
For instance, for about three months they’d been talking with Rita. Rita was tall, beautiful and smart. These qualities made her intimidating to the other women on the street but also made her more popular among clients. Rita was confrontational and somewhat combative when it came to faith, but was otherwise a joy to be around.
One night she found Rita on the street and she was crying. Rita was crying because she’d had a dream about Jesus the night before and needed to talk about it. Rita and my friend talked about Jesus, prayed together and Rita accepted Jesus into her life.
She understood that a life following Jesus meant leaving drugs and prostitution, it meant starting all over and likely with nothing. It meant a long road through rehab, if her pimp didn’t kill her for trying to leave. She prayed the prayer, sighed under the burden of the long and hard road ahead of her and started walking back to her drug house to explain to her pimp that she was out.
With tears of happiness in her eyes she knocked on the front door of the house. Just then, a car drove by, spraying the house with bullets, including one that hit her in the back, killing her instantly.
“Oh, that’s terrible!” I said as my friend was telling me this story.
“Is it?” she asked. “She had Jesus and she was spared the long hard road that rehab would have been and detox would have been and trying to realign her economy and trying to stay clean for the rest of her life.”
“God won her then spared her the hard road,” she said. “What a tremendous gift.”
I wonder a lot, when things aren’t going “according to plan” whether or not God is just not handing me the snakes I desire. That’s hard though. It is difficult to be grateful for those things, but I am trying.