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Coming home to grace

One disciple’s journey to Jesus leads to unexpected places

by Zach Spidel

Experiencing God’s love and grace: We value the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

It was 2 a.m., on a school night during my seventh-grade year when I realized that Jesus loved me. The discovery gripped me with a mixture of laughter and weeping. My nose ran unchecked and tears streamed down my face onto the Bible cradled in my lap. They marked the words I had just read to my heart’s great joy: “Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens . . .”

Those words astonished me, because I knew they were spoken by a living person, not some character in an antiquated story. I knew that the offer was good and how desperately I needed it. Most wonderfully, I knew that at that very moment, the One who made this offer did so with only love in His heart.

At first, though, I came hesitantly. While my heart reached out to accept His offer, my head remained incredulous. I couldn’t reconcile the conflicting notions that the God who knew my secrets also loved me with a passion that could rob those secrets of their shame. But the message of His costly, cross-shaped love had been made plausible to me by the flesh it wore at Fairview BIC (Englewood, Ohio). The memory of that fellowship paved the way for me to come fully to Jesus that night, despite my doubts. I came to Him, because I discovered that He had already come for me.

That experience was the beginning of my journey with Jesus, and grace has been my second home ever since.

After high school, I left Englewood to attend college and then seminary. There, I grew in my understanding of the grace that had seemed so unfathomable to me that night five years before. Yet with this new knowledge, the mystery and magnificence of the grace that had first moved my heart began to fade.

Following graduation, I was surprised when God led me back to Englewood, back to where I’d begun. Initially, I felt ambivalent about going back to where I’d started. After years in the rarefied atmosphere of seminary, here I was again, engaged in devotional Bible Studies and popcorn prayers, worshipping with friends who had never heard of Kierkegaard or Moltmann. But also, here I was again, crying for joy at the gift of grace, struggling to bend the knowledge of my head to serve the older knowledge God had given to my heart. I had come home again to grace.

I do not regret my sojourn. There were some lessons that required me to leave home to learn. Yet those lessons only came to mean something, only really became a part of me, when the road bent round again and led me back to where I began—to the place where I could integrate those lessons and test their worth.

As a follower of Jesus, I know that grace plays a similar role in my life. It is the home God has provided for my soul, the place where all my journeys begin and end, and the only place from which I can make any sense of this world. I am glad to be home.

This article originally appeared in the spring 2013 issue of In Part magazine.
Zach Spidel

Zach Spidel graduated from Princeton (N.J.) Theological Seminary in 2011. He’s pastor of The Shepherd’s Table, a new site of Fairview BIC with a vision to serve the urban neighborhoods of Dayton, Ohio.

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