Sandpaper Grace

June 25th, 2013
Creative Commons | by Public Domain Photos

I had been a Christian for all of three months when I was reading scripture and heard three of the most frightening words of my fourteen years: “Preach My Word.” I was positive that God had spoken to the wrong 14 year old boy. I was shy and a poor reader. However, I knew it was better to reluctantly say yes to God rather than no. God began to confirm His call on my life when I became a certified lay speaker at the age of fifteen and preached over 200 sermons between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. At nineteen, I was hired as a youth pastor, and by the time I entered Seminary at the age of twenty-two I had a preaching schedule that was booked for an entire year. I was well on my way to becoming a young and shining light in my denomination and in the Church Universal.

Everything was perfect until three years ago when my world came crashing down. The chair of my denomination’s Board of Ministry said to me, “You are not approved…” “Are you kidding me?” I thought along with other select words, “Do you not know what all I have done, my father is a respected pastor in our conference. I deserve this!” I went through a wide range of emotions from pain to anger, and even confusion. I had worked so hard to arrive at that moment all to be told not yet. I wondered, “God where are you and what are you doing?”

I called my pastor who listened attentively to my story and said to me, “Lorin, sometimes God sends us sandpaper to sand off some rough edges.” At that moment I did not like him very well. I was still mad, still hurting, and could do nothing to change the situation. It was here that I reached the lowest point of rejection in my life. There was no reason to keep moving forward in ministry. The pain was too much. But God would not let go of the calling on my life. God began to remind me of the times I wanted to give up while being a teenager called to ministry and when I was butt of all the jokes. God reminded me how He provided friends for me when I asked and how He opened doors for me to fulfill my ministry even as a teenager. He provided words of encouragement from friends, family, and even church members. God very gently pushed me forward allowing me to see Him at work in and through my life.

Over the course of three years God ministered to me and I began to see His grace at work, perfecting me in His image. A song by Marvin Sapp, “The Best In Me” encouraged me to keep moving forward with these words from the chorus: “When everyone around saw the worst in me, He saw the best in me.” This song gave me hope that even though I felt everyone could only see my worst and did not want me, God saw my best and was bringing it out. I held onto Philippians 1:6, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

Holding onto these promises, I allowed God’s sandpaper grace to sand off my rough edges. In the process, I found I needed humility. I did not deserve this gift of ordination, but it was a gift to cherish, as from God and not earned from human effort. I learned to crucify the fighter in my spirit. To be a fighter was to be the opposite of Christ and the world needed to see Jesus in me and not the fighter.

In the end I have learned that God’s gift of grace is not always a warm fuzzy feeling, sometimes it is rough like sandpaper to help us become all whom God wants us to be for His Kingdom. Over time as we work in ministry, we find that we have rough edges caused by the pain and unexpected hurts that ministry brings with it. Those rough edges in all of our lives need God’s sandpaper. They are not badges to be worn with pride, but are an opportunity for God to open up our lives for more of Him (see Isaiah 40:4). God’s sandpaper grace has made a difference in my life so that I can better reflect His glory in the world around me. By the smoothing out of God’s sandpaper grace, I was commissioned as a Probationary Elder in the United Methodist Church, June 10, 2013. It took twenty years but He saw the best in me all along!

Have you allowed God’s sandpaper grace to smooth out your rough places?

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