grace

Forgetting grace – Part 2

by Steve Brock on December 13, 2016

Forgetting grace - Madrid visa in passport

After losing my passport in the Madrid airport and then finding it, I was now faced with a new dilemma: How could I ever make it through this huge line for passport control in time to make my flight?

I ran ahead toward the front of the line. And there, right where I’d left him was the same official with whom I’d spoken before. I held up my passport. Again, the look of disbelief, but this time in a good way. Others were clamoring for his attention but thankfully, he understood my dilemma and asked them to wait. He told me to follow him as he walked to the head of the line and made way for me four people back from the front. Again, my words of gratitude couldn’t convey my appreciation.

Appreciation was not what the guy behind me was feeling. I heard him mutter something in English, not to me but to a couple taking way too long chatting with the immigration officer. I apologized for cutting in line but explained my situation. He said that he had arrived three hours earlier and still might not make his flight either. It’s a good reminder that even if you don’t lose your passport at the airport, getting through the airport for international flights can take far more time than you expect, especially during busy travel times or periods of heightened security.

The two of us waited anxiously and then, finally, the passport control official waved me forward. A few questions, the thunk of the immigration stamp and suddenly, I was back in motion, running down the concourse. The signs told me it would take 20 minutes to reach my gate. I halved that and made it to the gate three minutes before departure time.

Somehow, against all odds, I had made my flight.

I had prayed all the way through this process and all I could tell my relieved family when they saw me on the plane was, “God is so good.” And for the next hour as we took off and I finally settled down after this whole fiasco, all I could do was praise God for his kindness and grace. There was no doubt in my mind that God had performed a miracle. He had pulled the needle from the haystack and opened the doors to get me on this flight.

But as we cruised westward at 38,000 feet, something began to change. I replayed the scenario over and over. What was a miracle a few minutes ago became a carefully plotted explanation of how it all occurred. My passport likely got caught inside the X-ray machine. Someone found it and handed it to the right person to go in their equivalent of a “lost and found” pile. I worked through enough people to finally find the one who knew of this and voila! I had my passport back. And getting back on time? It was just smart on my part to have found the same guy who had helped me before.

In no time at all, I had explained away my miracle.

How can that be? How? Because I do it all the time. The Madrid airport was just a more dramatic example of how God comes through for me all the time in situations big and small. And at first, I am grateful. But soon after, I forget what really happened. I forget grace. Or more specifically, I choose to believe more in my own explanations than to concede that maybe, just maybe, God is real and active and concerned about things like lost passports. Or rather, the impact that lost passports have on his children, people he cares for so deeply.

I pray for miracles and when they happen, I am quick to dismiss them. The rational side of me isn’t comfortable with the possibility of divine intervention and mystery. But here’s the coda of this story.

I may have forgotten grace in the comfort of that flight home. But now, when other crises occur or I awake at 3 a.m. with some concern that no rationalizing can salve, I think back on my passport. It has become more than a government document now, a means of clearing borders. It is a symbol.

It represents answered prayer, God’s coming through in difficult straights. But most of all, it symbolizes that I am not alone however much I may explain away God’s presence and intervention into this material realm. I cannot prove God. But neither will I disprove him by refusing to believe that he still acts, intercedes and loves. That little blue passport book is a testament to a grace that continues when I remember it and even when I don’t.

It’s a symbol that at the end of all of this, it’s not just a passport that was found.

 

If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?

1 comment

A fortunate trip

by Steve Brock on July 17, 2014

Deschutes at NightWhen our sons were small, they loved the book, Fortunately by Remy Charlip. I pay homage to that book using his format here to tell you of a trip that didn’t go exactly as planned…

Fortunately, I had another chance just six months after my last trip down there, to visit Redmond and Bend, Oregon.

Unfortunately, my wife and youngest son couldn’t get away from school to join me.

Fortunately, my oldest son met me and my parents (who were fortunately able to get a timeshare condo in Redmond) on his drive home from college.

Unfortunately, as I was packing up my parents’ van to drive down to Oregon, my enthusiastic Labrador Retriever knocked my mom over.

Fortunately, my mom was sore but able to continue on the trip.

Unfortunately, she had a hard time getting around the whole time we were in Oregon.

Fortunately, she didn’t mind. She was happy to have all of us together. While she rested, my son and I took advantage of the luscious mountain biking trails in Bend and we went fishing several times with my dad as well.

Unfortunately, when fishing with my dad, we never caught anything.

Fortunately, it didn’t matter. Three generations together on rivers and lakes was reward enough.

Unfortunately, even though she took it easy, my mom’s pain got worse.

Fortunately, she was able to schedule an appointment that week with her doctor back home.

Unfortunately, her appointment meant leaving earlier than planned, but we all agreed that was for the best.

Fortunately, the night before we were to leave, there was a gorgeous full moon out. So after a late dinner, I grabbed my camera and tripod and drove down to the river to get some nighttime photos of the moon (see above and yes, that is the moon, not the sun).

Unfortunately, when I returned around 10:30 p.m. there was an ambulance in front of our condo. My mom had fallen when opening a window. She broke her arm and had to be taken to the emergency room.

Fortunately, they were wonderful there at the hospital. They took x-rays and ran tests.

Unfortunately, her arm was broken in three places.

Fortunately, the x-rays also showed no broken bones in her hips or back from the encounter with my dog Ginger. In fact, the pain she’d had before that in her right leg was now gone. Ginger had healed her!

Unfortunately, my mom passed out twice in the ER. More tests revealed a critical heart issue.

Fortunately, they moved her to a larger hospital in Bend (the ER was in Redmond, 2o minutes north of Bend) and were able to get her into surgery for a pacemaker that evening.

Unfortunately, the pacemaker surgery was on the same side as her broken arm (near the shoulder) and the doctors all agreed the arm needed surgery as well.

Fortunately, they were able to do the arm surgery the next day.

Unfortunately, all of this took longer than we had planned for our trip. We had to check out of the condo, find a hotel and move our stuff not knowing when we’d be able to go home.

Fortunately, the arm surgery went well and they released my mom the next day. We drove home exhausted from four days in the ER and hospital, but otherwise grateful to be home.

Unfortunately, this “vacation” became a bit of a nightmare. Trips don’t always go as planned and some are so far outside your realm of expectations as to be almost unreal.

Fortunately, had my mom not fallen (caused, apparently by passing out due to her heart), we’d never have known about her heart condition. The doctor told us that without the immediate surgery, she could be dead by now.

Funny how God uses our “unfortunatelys” for reasons that end up being fortunate indeed…

If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?

2 comments

A remembrance of things present – Part 4

by Steve Brock on September 25, 2012

In the process of rediscovering, cleaning up and retuning my old Motobecane Grand Touring ten-speed road bike, I realize how my entire perspective has changed.

I previously viewed my bike as a step up from junk. My bike is old: it predates not only the iPod but the original Sony Walkman (I probably just lost half of you as you toggle over to Google to look that up). And in our disposable, consumerist society, old usually means obsolete or about to break.

But I discover that despite the lack of paint in areas, my old bike is quality. And with a little attention and care, this old bike soon becomes a machine that runs as smoothly and precisely as a Swiss watch.

After my tune up, I begin riding it everywhere. Almost immediately, I come to experience the same delight in riding that I had with the mountain bikes in Whistler. In fact, there’s a particular gear – it would be, I think, fourth gear – on my road bike that is pure bliss.

I still can’t tell you why, but it seems effortless to pedal from a stop in that gear, almost as if the bike propels itself. Riding in that gear makes me smile every time. It feels like the most natural form of movement you could ever imagine.

All this bike riding may be a passing fad that fades with the sunny weather. But I pray I do not lose the awareness of something induced by the riding: joy itself. That sounds funny, but how often are you acutely aware of experiencing joy as it occurs?

The wonder is that I know that this joy isn’t just about riding. Taking the bike for a spin is merely an expression of deeper associations. When I ride, I’m aware of movement and speed, but also of exercise and health, family and friends and connections to both the past and the future.

But most of all, I’m also aware of something that almost makes me gasp when I think of what it might mean.

What if rediscovering my old bike was no accident? What if an odd form of divine favor has come my way in the guise of my old Motobecane, in a package that initially seemed too dated, obsolete and beyond redemption?

What if God actually delights in delighting me…us?

I want to believe that’s true. I tell myself I believe it’s true. But too often I chalk up such ideas to wishful thinking. Doubt creeps in. I forget what I have learned in life of the unlikely nature of grace.

Then I ride my bike.

And I know.

I rediscover…

 

If you haven’t done so, coast on back and check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.

If you found this interesting, why don't you share it with others?

9 comments