Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Embodiment of Grace

Grace is one of those often used words that we sometimes miss the potency of its meaning. We name our daughters Grace and we speak of someone with coordination and ability as having grace. In the Bible grace is not only God’s great gift to us but an absolute necessity.

The typical definition is “unmerited favor” or receiving something that you don’t deserve. I tend to think of grace as the “stuff” that God gives us at any moment of need. You need wisdom and God gives it, that’s grace. You need healing, direction, forgiveness, or salvation, and God gives it, that’s grace.

Friday night’s NBC Dateline carried a story of two families that are the embodiment of grace. The short of it is that a van from Taylor University in Indiana was transporting nine of their students in April, 2006 when a tractor-trailer truck crossed the highway median, struck the van and killed five of the students.

One of the students believed to be killed was Whitney Cerak. One of the students believed to have survived was Laura Van Ryn. The wreck was so horrific and chaotic, and bodies were so bruised and battered, the girls were misidentified.

So, the Cerak family went through the grief of having a funeral for Whitney and the Van Ryn family went through the emotionally taxing ordeal of nursing Laura back to health from a terrible brain injury, coma, and rehab. Five weeks after the crash the Van Ryn family discovered that the woman they had been in the hospital with 24 hours a day was not their daughter but instead Whitney Cerak.

The Cerak and Van Ryn families are both Christian and now have written a book together called, “Mistaken Identity” that tells this story. Both families are pictures of God’s grace as they allow us in their personal and private pain so that we might see--

1. Grace for death and grief (both families had funerals)
2. Grace for perseverance (how does one go on with such a hole in your heart)
3. Grace for forgiveness (officials who misidentified the girls)
4. Grace to love and embrace the other (these families didn’t know each other and now are linked together forever)
5. Grace to trust God when life is so confusing and so painful.

One hymn writer said this about God’s grace--
It is “marvelous, matchless, infinite grace”.

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