by Rev. Dr. Matthew Williams, Lead Pastor
“Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent with a home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she slipped away, breaking her mother’s heart. Knowing what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, Maria hurriedly packed to go find her. On her way to the bus stop, she entered a drugstore to get one last thing. Pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all she could on pictures of herself.
With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she boarded the next bus to Rio de Janiero. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. When pride meets hunger, a human will do things that were before unthinkable. Knowing this, Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. She went to them all. And at each place she left her picture—taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, fastened to a corner phone booth. And on the back of each photo, she wrote a note. It wasn’t too long before both the money and the pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The weary mother wept as the bus began its long journey back to her small village.
It was a few weeks later that young Christina descended the hotel stairs. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times over she had longed to trade these countless beds for her secure pallet. Yet the little village was, in too many ways, too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back was this compelling invitation. “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.” She did.“1
This is what God’s grace is like. It seeks us out, and it says whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Let me lead you home. God’s grace seeks us out and finds us; God’s grace is relentless. It is the kind of grace that we read about in I John 4: 10 & 19: In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us…We love because he first loved us.
I know a man named PK. He is an incredible bass player. He came and played with our church orchestra in Jacksonville a number of times. He was riding the fence on whether or not he wanted to become a Christian. He kind of had it all—a great job, a beautiful fiancé—things were looking up. He was reading the Gospels and talking about God with other people. He also had a cocaine problem and didn’t know what to do. I remember going to his house and seeing padlock bolts on his bedroom door. There was a part of his life he was going to keep everyone out of as he felt there was no way out. After a call one night where I helped some others pick him up off of his driveway from an overdose, he became sensitive. He couldn’t understand why a few people from church would do that for him. He began to think about giving it all over to God—and he got to a place where he made that decision. God’s grace had found him, and he began a new beginning
Dana Hutton states: “Beginnings are fragile things. They’re made of gossamer threads of hope and shimmer with the faint light of potential grace. It’s in the human heart that we begin weaving our designs and dreams of experience yet to come. We live our entire lives within chrysalises. As soon as we emerge from one, life sculpts another around us. Within manifest reality, everything is in a constant state of becoming.”2
PK knew he needed a higher power in his life. He entered a recovery program, began to serve others in the community, and became active in Bible study. God’s love never quit loving PK. God found him and led him home.
God’s love goes before us, God’s love makes things right, God’s love never quits. Aren’t we glad that God’s love never quits—never fails—but that it is always molding and making us! I love this quote from John Wesley: “From the time of our being born again, the gradual work of sanctification takes place…we are more and more alive to God. We go on from grace to grace.”3
The love that just won’t quit is a love that prompts us to commune with God with all of our heart, soul, mind, body, and strength. Why? Because we realize that God gets the big picture of our lives. Christina found her way home. Jesus found PK right where he was. The way of grace is that God seeks us out, finds us, and molds and makes us for the rest of our lives.
“Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.” Thanks be to God for Trinity United Methodist Church: God’s house, our home.
1 Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, Multnomah Press, 1986, pp. 158-9.
2 Dana Hutton, The Art of Becoming.
3 John Wesley, “The Scripture Way of Salvation” (sermon, May 22, 1758. Copyright 1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology.)