By Jackie Morfesis
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me. / I once was lost but now am found / Was blind, but now I see.” “Amazing Grace” was a favorite song of my father, Peter. I can still hear him singing this with his strong and gifted voice.
In many ways, we may spend our lives believing and thinking that salvation is in our hands. If only we could be better. Do more. Try harder. Be more wonderful, more beautiful, more accomplished, more successful — even more merciful. More loved and wanted, approved of and appreciated. Be more and more. Do more and more.
I, too, have fallen prey to this line of thinking. Yet I have always naturally gravitated to outreach, giving mercy to others. If there was a lost soul, I was the one whose heart would ache. If there was a lost kitten, I was the one who begged to adopt her. If there was a sad story, I was the one to draw near and listen. And as an adult, I will do the same for anyone who tells me their trials, even those who blame others for their tribulations. I simply want to comfort.
This is the reason I was drawn to prison outreach and ministry. This is the reason I have served as an advocate for many causes dear to my heart. This is the reason I volunteered at an orphanage in Greece and at youth camps here and abroad. And this is the reason I will always stand and speak for the suffering, even when others are silent, even at my own risk. Especially at my own risk. Those who know me personally can testify to this point, even though many have turned away from speaking up for me and mine.
I was always an empath, and because of this, I have suffered physically, emotionally and spiritually in my life. I trusted when I should have been cautious. I gave people the benefit of the doubt when I should have rightly doubted. I believed the bold lies, charms and manipulations of those who set out to deceive and use others for their own selfish gain. And I forgave again and again, only to be harmed again and again.
I wrongly assumed that those I cared about and thought cared about me would be interested in my gifts and joyously celebrate with me the sharing of my talents instead of responding with veiled jealousy, attempting to discredit and silence my voice, even telling me that my voice doesn’t matter. Sometimes it is true that we are supported, protected, valued, understood and appreciated. Many times, it is not.
The reason is obvious. We are a broken world. And because we are a broken world, we are a broken humanity. And because we are a broken humanity, we are a humanity filled with broken souls. And broken souls do not see that God brings beauty for ashes: “To appoint unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:3).
The great tragedy of humanity is that we do not see that God works our pain for His glory — and the opportunity for redemption is lost. God does not intend for us to stay in a place of pain, loneliness, grief or suffering. When we see through the eyes of spirit, we not only know that about ourselves and our own faith walk, we know that about others. But too often instead, we hold fear in our hearts that the secrets of our own lives and the lives of our families and relations will be uncovered — so we shudder at the thought that anyone else has the courage to reveal their own wounds and brokenness. It is uncomfortable to be in the presence of the unveiling. Yet one day, every single one of us will be unveiled.
But there is always hope. And hope came nailed to the cross — the Son of God who was given to us for the forgiveness of our sins. And there is nothing we can do to earn the greatest gift given to us, though we must acknowledge and accept our Lord as Savior and proclaim how desperately we need to give our lives to Him to be in relationship with Him.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” Scripture is clear who deserves the glory for our salvation. The glory always goes to God.
And here is the beautiful culmination of our being saved. We are not saved by good works, but when we are saved, our soul is moved and hungers to do good works. Not because it is something to add to our resume, to elevate us in the public eye. Not to bring us praise or because it is politically correct. It is to fulfill a need of our soul to work in building God’s kingdom here on earth.
The faith journey, for me, has not been one that has brought great earthly riches, and earthly riches were never my desire. Instead, this journey has brought riches that cannot be bought — in truth, the ones that matter for eternity. According to Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
My treasures were never of this earth, and that is an honest statement. I remember when my mother asked me if I wanted the Gorham silverware or the Lenox china dishes when my father passed away and the contents of the house were being sold. I told her I wanted neither. I only wanted Coco, the sweet and devoted Yorkie I had gifted to my father as a puppy.
Amazing grace. I cannot even count how many times grace has come upon me in great and small ways, though there is nothing small from God. He is the one who works everything for His glory. How often we forget that this isn’t about us. It was never about us. It’s about praising the Lord for all He has done for us, for all He has given to us and for all He will continue to do for us. His blessings never cease.
To even claim our gifts, we must tread carefully. Certainly, we can cultivate them. Certainly, we can work hard to actualize them and bring them into the world. We must never forget the one who gifted us our gifts. As James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Amazing grace. Every day I am reminded how amazing is our God. He is the rock. The foundation. The unmovable peace.
Life is so very fragile. We think we will live forever. And in truth, we will. Yet where our soul will rest in eternity is the question — and it’s a question that is too deep, too loaded and too troublesome for many to even entertain. First, we would have to acknowledge the existence of soul. Then we would have to acknowledge the existence of God. Then we would have to acknowledge the existence of eternity.
I fully realize that there are those who read these words who may not agree with what I write. In many ways, I write for those who don’t see through the eyes of spirit because life has not brought them to the place of so needing God that they are willing to surrender to His will.
I don’t want a life that is not touched by the will of God. I don’t want a life that does not have God’s hand and imprint. I don’t want a life where I am not continually seeking spirit and His purpose for me.
Life becomes very simple when we allow God to be God. To live every day in surrender to His will. To pray over our choices and decisions. And to know that He is with us always.
And regardless of what happens, be it our greatest joy or our deepest sorrow, He will never forsake us. Regardless of how many on this earth forsake us, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35).There is nothing, nothing in this world, neither a person nor the legions of darkness and their earthly torments, that has the power to separate us from our God. And this is the most amazing grace of all.
Jackie Morfesis is a creative, advocate and author. She holds a BFA in fine arts and an MA in liberal studies and is a former Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar to Greece. She is a Greek Orthodox Christian with an ecumenical spirit.