Faith : Experiencing Grace

The word of a monk 

When I became a Christian at the end of my first year at university, my life was a mess. I knew that I’d done a lot of wrong and hurt myself and others, but I also knew that, because I’d found Jesus (or he’d found me) I was at the beginning of a whole new chapter of my life. I remember being so shocked and so filled with joy to discover that there was forgiveness for me and that Jesus had died so that I could experience it. However, I still couldn’t process how he could love and accept me. The horrible sense that I was ‘a failure’ seemed to go with me wherever I went and no matter how hard I tried to please God, the feeling of unworthiness and condemnation plagued me day and night. I just couldn’t see beyond it. I’m not saying I’m completely free of those feelings, even today, but something happened in my second year of university that began a great shift in how I understood God and myself. 

I studied History and Theology at the University of Kent and one of my modules was ‘Franciscan Theology’ - I used to like it because I got to go to the Franciscan Centre just off campus and the Franciscan monks used to just walk around the grounds - which appealed to my love of the past for some reason. One day while I was at the centre, God spoke to me in a surprising way...I can’t say I’ve had the experience of God interrupting what I was doing very often, but that’s what it felt like.  I was standing in a corridor at the centre and God said ‘go through that door!’ I honestly had no clue what was behind the door and I rather nervously opened it and went in...

The room was full of monks and I remember feeling embarrassed and scared. There was a monk sitting behind a large desk at the far end of the room, and he was teaching all the other monks. Surprisingly the head monk looked up and said ‘hello’ - I said, ‘hello’ and, it sounds rather silly now, but I told him that the Lord had told me to come into the room. He didn’t seem phased at all or and he just invited me to sit down, which I did. The monk continued to teach and as I listened his words amazed me, he spoke about the ‘power of grace’. It felt like God had sent me into the room to hear this and I realised that it was the answer to my terrible sense of failure and inadequacy. I knew I was forgiven, yes, but God also wanted me to know that the power of his grace was at work in my life and that through that grace I could experience his love and acceptance despite my failings and weaknesses. It was Day One of my journey into grace, one I am still on. As I got up to leave the classroom the head monk said to me, ‘Please commend us to the Lord’ - it felt like such a beautiful, humble thing for him to ask of me because I felt like an imposter and an intruder who had foolishly barged into his classroom. 

The lesson I learnt that day went so far beyond the words I had heard, I had expected rejection but I had experienced welcome, kindness and honour. I had not just heard about the power of grace, I had experienced it. 

2 Timothy 2:1 - ‘You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’