Do you ever look back on the life you’ve led and wonder how you’re still here? Do you think of mercy and grace, and want to absolutely crumple under the weight of your own regretful tears? I was reading in Luke this morning when I came across this.
Luke 13:6-9New International Version (NIV)
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
Immediately my mind flashed back in time, many years ago. The funny thing about time is how something can seem a lifetime away, but simultaneously the memory of it can be so fresh it’s as if it were yesterday. I can still easily recall the way my hands uselessly gripped the steering wheel as it ripped around and out of my grasp. My head slung backwards as I realized I was in a multitude of revolutions. Darkness was all around, and torrents of heavy rain pelted the windows of my tiny car. Even in my deep state of alcohol-induced inebriation I understood one thing very clearly. I had hydroplaned, lost control of my vehicle, and there was no way of gaining it back. Within city limits, with houses and buildings all around, yet surprisingly not another car, I caught flashes of street lamps muted by windows of blurred water while my car spun violent three-sixties off the road. I tried in vain to hold the runaway steering wheel, and my drunken, yet frightened mind wondered in slow motion if I was supposed to turn against the wet skid like you would if you hit ice. I didn’t know, but I knew this.
I’m going to die.
That was the main theme that ran below the steady current of adrenaline and drunken fear. My time had come, and surprisingly I felt calm as I careened to my imminent death. I believe it was the acceptance that I was getting what I rightfully deserved. I knew better than to drive drunk, and despite what I told myself when I grabbed the keys (you’re fine, silly), I knew at that moment, as my life flashed before my eyes, that I deserved to die by my own hand for my stupid actions. I even had the thought to whisper a thank you that no other innocent driver was in my path of destruction.
I knew God. I even knew His love for me. He had planted His Holy Spirit in my heart, yet I had turned my back on Him. I had allowed the disappointments I faced in this world to hamper my relationship with Him. I had sought fulfillment and healing beyond His hand, and even though each day ended with me empty, and each new morning began with my conviction and regret, I still couldn’t believe I was good enough to return to His side. Heck, I think honestly the sinful part of my nature didn’t want to.
I was producing zero fruit, and my King had every right to cut me down. I knew His glory, but I disregarded His will. I knew His sacrifice, but I walked in opposition of His gifts for my life. I had been saved by grace, yet I took it for granted. I deserved to be cut down. I should have been cut down! But He decided to give me another year.
Spinning, spinning, spinning. The tiny car just kept spinning, but then suddenly it was not.
Am I dead? I had wondered for a moment.
I inhaled deeply, and then I exhaled just as much. I was alive. I got out of my vehicle, and the rain poured like evidence from Heaven that I could still feel the world around me. I don’t think I had truly felt it for some time. My car sat stationary in someone’s yard, between a large oak and a towering power pole. No ding or scratch was on my vehicle, and the only evidence anything was amiss was a sprig of pulled grass stuck in my hubcap. My body was whole, but my soul was shaken. I had deserved to be taken away in a body bag, but I stood in the pouring rain miraculously alive.
A year later I was producing fruit. It might have been slim pickings, but it was something. I had turned an about face from the life of self-destruction that surrounded me the night I lost control of my car. It wasn’t just the vehicle’s trajectory that was outside of my power. Some would have labeled me a lost cause, but not my God. He saw the potential in me. He knew my heart. He called me back into His arms. I look back on my past life and I want to cry with shame. It’s not condemnation I feel. It’s simply sorrow over so much wasted time that I could have been living for Jesus, producing fruit. Although I do weep at times over the mistakes I made, I would say that mostly my tears are those of gladness and gratitude that the Lord never gave up on me. He should have, but He didn’t. It’s true that nothing in this world can take us from Him. It may blind us to His goodness, it may distance us from His glory, but it can never take us from His grasp.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.