Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” is generally considered one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. While I can’t comment about this film, I can tell you about an odyssey Nancy and I took that changed our lives.
I call it “1990: A Grace Odyssey.” The title coincides with Chuck Swindoll’s book “The Grace Awakening,” which was published in 1990.
I’m not exactly sure when I became aware of my tremendous need for grace – to receive it, to understand it and to give it. But grace took me and Nancy on an odyssey that went from Massachusetts back to Florida — and an entirely new way of life.
In 1986 Nancy and I had moved to Massachusetts to join a church that was on the cutting edge of evangelism. The church was sending church plants throughout the country and world. We had initially thought of becoming missionaries.
But the church proved to be very legalistic, where works were more important than grace. That’s not what we preached, but it was the way we were taught and the way we tried to live. We thought we were doing God’s will, and many people were won to Christ — at least in our way of thinking — but it was a very frustrating way of life.
Sometime around 1990 we considered leaving. Friends in Massachusetts couldn’t understand why we would leave and I’m pretty sure I never really explained it. I mean, I wasn’t really calling it a grace odyssey at that point. I thought I had grace pretty much figured out. We all did.
Finally, after years of oppression God sent us Swindoll’s book and it put a new spin to what we were lacking, namely grace.
Nancy and I would meet with church leaders and explain how our evangelistic bible study of eight lessons didn’t have segment on grace. They would point out our “Light and Darkness” study covered grace, but it didn’t.
Regardless of our growing disenchantment we remained good campers. When we finally moved back to Florida in 1991 we were given a very big party. So many of those folks were such very good friends. But we just didn’t get it.
In Florida, we joined a church planting in Orlando, where works were more important than grace. It took a violent act of God to cause us to release our confidence in works and rely on his grace. Basically, our pursuit of grace resulted in being asked (told) to leave the church. While I had been contemplating that move for months we were determined once again to be good campers and get along. Until we were made to go.
Fifteen years later my journey continues. I still don’t understand grace. But I understand it enough to make me want to continue pursuing it.
Rick Reed is a columnist for the Daily Commercial. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.