After introducing my friend to Laura Story’s “Blessings” (which has also served me extremely well in the past!), she returned the favor a week later by sharing this song she discovered while browsing Laura Story’s other work. I wasn’t such a huge fan at first, but after listening to this song more and more, as well as reading over the lyrics, I’ve built such a strong and personal connection to this song in particular, because it illustrates my own testimony to God’s saving work in my life.
My heart is so proud, my mind is so unfocused.
I see the things You do through me as great things I have done.
From birth, I was brought up within the family that I call the church. My parents, who had partnered with other members to found the church, actively involved themselves in serving the Body of Christ with their time, talents, and money. Because I often accompanied them when they needed to stay late at the church to prepare for the next service or clean up afterwards, I spent a lot of time during my years in elementary school helping them run small errands or perform minor duties. I thought that I earned my parents’ favor–and God’s favor–through the work that I did, the service I performed. I attributed it to me instead of to the grace of God.
This pride that I slowly built up within myself manifested itself in so many ways, not only through my view of service to the church but also through my view of the childhood church friends I knew who weren’t serving in the same way I did. It was so easy for me to look down on them and consider their faith inferior to mine, because I was actively serving and doing things for the church while they sat in the corner playing video games.
And now You gently break me, then lovingly You take me
And hold me as my Father and mold me as my Maker.
I carried this mindset with me into and through high school, seeing the service that I performed through the Christian club or at church as something that brought favor from God to myself. Though I do think I was legitimately saved at six years old, my prideful mindset overshadowed my ability to see it for what it was–a sinful offense to God for His gracious gift towards me, that I would even be brought up in the church to know Him savingly. And that gift of grace made itself more known to me as I entered UCLA and saw the difficult backgrounds and circumstances that other believers had experienced before God saved them at college.
At times I may grow weak and feel a bit discouraged,
Knowing that someone, somewhere could do a better job.
For who am I to serve You? I know I don’t deserve You.
And that’s the part that burns in my heart and keeps me hanging on.
Upon joining Grace on Campus at UCLA, I was immediately floored and humbled at the amazing talent, abilities, and knowledge that everyone at GOC had. People came from all sorts of backgrounds and had all sorts of talents that they faithfully trained and honed during their childhood. Talents for music, dancing prowess, speaking and preaching abilities, and beyond–all of it made it so tempting to feel that God hadn’t gifted me to the same degree that everyone else at GOC was. I started to feel so inadequate and unprepared for service to the Lord, to the point where I even shifted the blame towards Him for my lack of abilities or lack of talent.
But soon I began to accept the truth–that some people are indeed given more to serve the Lord with (see the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30), but it was so wrong for me to assume that God hasn’t given anything to me at all, or to question why that other person had received a gift that I hadn’t. All that was required of me was faithfulness, knowing that I deserved nothing in the first place. God called everyone, including me, to be faithful with what He had blessed us with, and it doesn’t require any special ability or talent to serve Him–just a heart willing to love and submit to Him.
You are so patient with me, Lord.
Throughout this entire process, I had a hardness of heart and as a result it was difficult for me to see how much of a sinner I was and how desperately I needed God’s grace to cover and sanctify me. I didn’t want to have to place my own pride on the offering table and to give it up, and I clung foolishly onto sin that became a barrier to humbling myself. But God was patient with me, slowly and graciously showing me my sin through my conversations with other GOC’ers–especially those who I had put on a pedestal. I began to see that we were all sinners and all inadequate in different ways, but God is a God of grace and mercy upon all of us, being patient with us as we grow to repent from our sin and to trust Him for His goodness towards us. Even when we deserved eternal wrath and judgment for our sin, He “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9 NASB). When I struggled in the midst of the depths of sin, the testing of my faith and the trial of my perseverance ultimately proved that I was a soul completely saved by grace–and that not of myself!
As I walk with You, I’m learning what Your grace really means:
The price that I could never pay was paid at Calvary.
So, instead of trying to repay You, I’m learning to simply obey You
By giving up my life to you for all that You’ve given to me.
Being at Grace on Campus has helped me to see the gospel for what it’s worth. Not that I fully grasp it now (nor will I until the day I die), but the picture has been brought into so much more focus since being here. Even though I may have known before what it meant to trust in Jesus Christ for the salvation of sin, the weight of the cost never pierced me in the same way it has here at UCLA. The weight of my sin, my shame, my mistakes, my intentional rebellion put Christ on the cross–even when I didn’t deserve it nor was worth it. My shepherd puts it this way: “His grace is free, but it wasn’t cheap.”
And knowing this, I began to repent from my sinful pride and embrace the gift of salvation for what it was. No longer did my understanding of the gospel only make it through to my head–it began to penetrate my heart as well. Though I knew what it meant that I was “saved by grace”, my actions until this point didn’t illustrate it. And knowing that I was “bought at a price”–the highest price–the only proper response I could have would be to “glorify God in [my] body” (1 Cor. 6:20 NASB).
I ask you: “How many times will you pick me up,
When I keep on letting you down?
And each time I will fall short of Your glory,
How far will forgiveness abound?”
And You answer: “My child, I love you.
And as long as you’re seeking My face,
You’ll walk in the power of My daily sufficient grace.”
Through this journey, I know I’ve failed. I’ve constantly stumbled into sin that I vowed never to commit again. I’ve encountered the same temptation over and over again, and yet give in to it each and every time.
And that is why I need God’s grace so so much–to spread its way into every fiber of my being, every step of my path, every aspect of my life. It’s only by His grace that I’ve made it thus far, and by that very same grace I will trust it to take me home.
Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.
– John Newton