’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
By: John Newton, 1725-1807
Listen as you read. This version is from Sacred Piano by Paul Cardall.
So I ask you to consider if grace had lost any of it’s preciousness since you first saw it. If it has, do not feel badly. This happens to each of us to some degree because frankly, we are not obsessed with grace like Gollum was obsessed with his ring.
A Love-Hate Relationship
Gollum is a character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings who finds a magical Ring which transforms his life. Part of the transformation is that it extends his life long past natural limits, which is the upside. The down side is that centuries of the Rings’ influence twists Gollum’s body and mind until he has a curious love-hate relationship with the Ring he refers to as “My Precious”. There are some interesting parallels to consider between Gollum and his Ring and us and grace. The main difference is that they are essentially opposites of each other with the ring destroying Gollum while grace saves us.
As I reflected on the words of this stanza, I was struck by the writer’s preoccupation with grace, evidenced by the use of it three times, once in each of the first three lines. Gollum is preoccupied as well, but obviously not in the same way. His fixation on the Ring might just be instructive for us when we think about the transformative power of grace in our lives, both body and mind.
You see, grace changes our lives. Part of that transformation is that it extends our lives long past natural limits, spiritually speaking, since eternity is a really long time. The influence of grace twists our bodies and minds into what becomes for many of us a love-hate relationship.
We are thankful for the transforming power of grace, but it’s presence illuminates the struggle between good and evil that exists within each of us who have tasted it. I think Paul put it best when he said this in Romans 7:18-19, “1For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” This is part of a larger passage which illustrates this struggle. See Romans 7:14-24.
We love grace, but we hate what it shows us about ourselves. Embrace the grace of God in your life again today and the power it provides not only to deliver you from your fears, but from your vices as well. Take a few moments and think about what grace has revealed to you that needs transformation. This exercise will help you begin the process of restoring a proper view of grace as precious.
Interesting word, “precious”. It is what brought Gollum to mind in the first place since this is not really a commonly used word today. When something is highly esteemed for some spiritual, nonmaterial, or moral quality it is said to be precious. That said, what could be more precious than grace? It becomes for us, like Gollum’s ring, the one gift that rules them all.
Grace essentially is getting what you do not deserve.
The Ring basically transforms Gollum into the worst imaginable version of himself, whereas grace does the opposite for us by making us the best version of ourselves. So I guess the question that is haunting me is how can we become as obsessed with grace as Gollum was with his ring so that it can have the equal and opposite effect of transforming us? Is the secret in the fixation alone? Using grace in three out of every four texts we send, or Facebook/Instagram posts?
No, it can’t be that simple. Or can it? Maybe there is something about the preoccupation that does have a transformative effect. It makes me think of Isaiah 26:3. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”
What better thing to trust in than the unmerited favor of God made accessible to us through the finished wok of Christ on the cross? Allow your mind to rest on God and His grace. Take a few moments now to ask Him to restore your view of His grace to what it was when you were first overwhelmed by it.
Holy Spirit, remind me today of just how precious grace is. Take me back to those first moments when I surrendered to Your grace. Usher in the peace that comes when my mind is resting on you. Help my thoughts routinely return to a sense of wonder and awe that can transform my life. In Jesus name. Amen.
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