“Can you come and share your story?” said Laura Hash, JV missionary in Poland.
I kinda of chuckled, y’know in an insecure-anxious-seriously?-heck-no! type of way. But there was something going on in me before this call ever came. I just didn’t know what God was asking me to do with it, until now. And the first step was to go to a snowboard camp 7 hours north in Poland...
So it’s no joke or secret that I’m not a ‘wintery’ person. I mean, shoot, I was planning on moving to Africa before I moved to Czech. I can guarantee that their winters are better then anything in stock here. And by ‘better’ I mean NO SNOW! People have kind of snickered or laughed politely when I say that I don’t like snow. But I’m not trying to be funny.
Let me be specific, because I’m not talking about large open fields with crystallized trees in the distance and enough thaw to hear the babbling of the nearest brook as the sun rises in the distance. I am talking about the snow that is slushed around and mixed with dirt and rocks to prevent slipping and then dogs (and some humans) feel the need to ‘doodle’ or toss their cigarettes, soda bottles, candy wrappers, receipts, used sausage plates with leftover mustard into the drifts.
So there is a certain irony of being asked to come to a snowboard camp, emphasis on the s n o w. I grew up within 45 min. of Mt. Hood (gorgeous mountain in Oregon) and have only been skiing once in my entire life. Nothing like a barney-purple-full-body-bell-bottom-snow-suit to send all those snow-studs into a frenzy when I was 12!
Fortuitously I wasn’t asked to come as an instructor, but as someone with some experience with life on the road with tours. Most specifically I was coming to their So You Think You Can Dance Night. The Polish version, You Can Dance! has become quite popular in the past couple years and they were having a theme night and dance competition. I use the word competition loosely.
“Can you talk about what it was like to live on the road with all the dancers?”
“Maybe what your job was”
“What were the fun parts?”
Sooo many memories flashed in my head. And it wasn’t the ‘fun parts.’
That tour and that time in my life represented so much for me. It was the time and the place where I made some extremely poor decisions. At one point I remember looking in a mirror and not even recognizing the face that stared back. It was like my second grade school picture was held up side by side to my reflection and I desperately wanted to climb back into that little girl. So innocent, full of hope and excitement for life, endless possibilities. But looking in that mirror I was miserable. Trapped. Suffocating. Entangled in my lies, my sin, my choices. I had arrived at the place where I had always so self righteously stood against and said, “I could never do that.”
Done. Did that.
That was two years ago. Forgiveness has been freely given by my gracious and loving God. I saw a picture of what grace is and the value of such a cost to my God. I like the picture that Deitrich Bonhoeffer draws in his book, Cost of Discipleship, cheap vs. costly grace.
The essence of cheap grace is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing.
I walked around after tour, and that place of such spiritual darkness, feeling guilty for smiling. You may think that’s silly and stupid. But honestly, I felt a great sense of guilt and shame from my choices and I didn’t want anyone to think that I quickly and flippantly moved on with my life. I didn’t want to feel like I did that. I needed to feel and taste this place of saddening separation from God. I didn’t want to find myself here anymore.
Bonhoeffer explains Costly Grace: It is costly because it costs a man (Jesus Christ) his life, and it is grace because it gives a man (me, Lauree Austin) the only true life. It’s a beautiful and fragile place to be. I saw and felt the weight of forgiveness offered to me. But I think for the past few years, I haven’t known how to accept it. How to live free of my sin. Living in the constant state of, “yeah, but...”
“Yeah, I understand forgiveness. but I don’t deserve it, but I can’t accept it, but I should have to do something...”
For the past two years I haven’t been set free. It’s been a theory or wishful thought, not the reality of my heart.
And as I stood in front of a room packed with 80 snowboarders I shared my story.
At times my story is a comedy, I was actually capable of sinning? Get outta here! Me? Ba dump ching!
It quickly becomes a tragedy, drinking myself into oblivion to remove the feelings. A dark place of mental and spiritual destruction. But...
Man! I have an epic story of redemption. My story shows a loving and merciful God who pulled me out of my muck and destruction. He did that for me! He brushed me off and pulled my chin up to his face and forgave me. “Welcome back Lo. I’ve missed you. Now let’s get back to it!”
I climb to the top of a mountain and do a Maria Von Trapp twirl as the music swells and my heart overflows with joy and relief. I close my eyes and and lift my face to the sky, letting the sun warm me. “I am FREEEEEeeeeeee!” I shout to the ends of the earth. Of course I assumed that my story was made into a movie, albeit a made-for-tv-after-school-special!
I had fun. It’s sounds weird and maybe a bit disrespectful with such heavy subject matter. But I stood in front of those kids and talked about my crap and God’s redemption and I had fun. It brought me joy. Because I got to talk about my God, my Savior, my Jesus. What a privilege! I think God brought this up and used it to heal me, to get me across a threshold that I have been stuck behind.
You may be reading this with a smile, reminded of your own epic and wonderful story of redemption. But if you are reading this wondering what forgiveness feels like from your creator God I want to invite you find your answer. Be free!