1 Timothy 1:12-17 (NRSV)
Verse 12I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, Verse 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, Verse 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Verse 15The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the foremost. Verse 16But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life. Verse 17To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
I grew up hearing my fair share of altar-call stories, mountaintop transformations, and "Come to Jesus" tales. I envied the theatrical flare and linear trajectory that took people from rock bottom to born-again Christian in one moving testimony. My faith story, on the other hand, has been sneaky and subtle: two steps forward, one step back, run out of gas, hitchhike too far, and meet someone or come upon a vista that changes the planned route altogether.
The apostle Paul has a great testimony. He can point to the day everything changed and he was redeemed. Still, I tend to hear his story like a 30-minute HGTV home renovation turning a disaster into a dream home. "They lived happily ever after!"
But that house doesn't stay crisp and staged forever. After the cameras leave, there will be more projects, a just-beyond-budget mortgage, and the messiness of life. The same is true with Paul. Even while writing about his great big transformation, he was weathering challenges we can relate to: political landmines, religious traditions, incarceration, personal ego, imposter syndrome, leading in a season of fear.
Saving God, we are relieved and rejoice that your grace does not expire or fool us with conditions in fine print. Keep claiming us, not just once, but in the daily grind and shadows of this life, so that our whole lives are washed in your love. Amen.