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The Grace Project

The Grace to Live Fully

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“You don’t understand!  I coulda had class.  I coulda been a contender.  I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” ~ Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) in “On The Waterfront” (1954)  If there is one word in the English language that has haunted me over the years, almost mockingly, it is the word potential.  
Potential speaks of what might be, of what could be.  Yet, the older one gets, the more that potential atrophies and what might be becomes what might have been; and what could be slips through the fingers of time and becomes what could have been.  Then, they change the plaque on the wall to read “Has Been.” Suddenly, you are Yesterday’s Man or Yesterday’s Woman and the next contender shuffles forwards in the line as you fade in the memory and the sands of time. 
Potential is an adjective that taunts us with the idea of what is possible but not yet actual.  It alludes to what is capable of being but is yet to exist, latent.  Perhaps it is because I am the other side of fifty that I am feeling chagrin about the subject of unfulfilled potential.  And yet, I see it everywhere I go, be it in my corporate life, pastoral life, family life or indeed my personal life I want to help other to have the courage than the grace to live fully.    
For the first forty-five years of my life I was never satisfied with my achievements because my motivation was to prove myself to others; today things have changed, I’m no longer caught up in the endless quest to feel good about myself I am free to simply express myself for others.  
The grace message is not about self-improvement.  It is about self-discovery.  If you take this journey the one thing I can promise you is that yours will never be Terry Malloy’s speech above.  When you give your farewell speech, you will be able to say, “I’m glad I did instead of I wish I had.”
Alright then.  Without further ado, let’s get straight to the point.  I want to begin by challenging you to consider a few of questions.  You might want to get a journal or a note pad to write down your answers.  I suspect that you might baulk at the questions but indulge me for a moment:
“What is it that you can do better than anyone else in the world?”
I told you that you would balk.
Go on.  Think about it.  What is it?
Now, ask yourself: “What is it that I am passionate about?  What is it that I cannot not do?”
Alright.  Now, let me nudge you along a bit.  Let me ask you a few more questions.  There are no right or wrong answers.  
There are neither villains nor heroes.  I am simply asking you to honestly and candidly answer these questions:
(1) When you reflect on your life to date, do you feel that you have fulfilled your potential or do you feel that there are things you could achieve, things which are in your spirit but not yet evidenced in your actual experience?
(2) What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?
(3) What did you dream of doing or of being before life got in the way?
(4) Have you ever felt “locked up”?  Have you ever felt that an invisible restriction has been placed on your life and that your growth has somehow been stunted?
I want to suggest to you that there are structures we are unaware of, which are holding us prisoner.  We have become victims of the Bonsai Conspiracy.  The real problem we are facing is frequently located where we would least expect to find it – inside of ourselves.  Now, the question is this:
“Is your desire to fulfil your potential strong enough to force you to change your thinking?”
In my professional life one of my roles is to work an executive life coach. In coaching there is a well-known formula that states: "Potential minus interference equals performance." It is generally understood, even in non-Christian circles that the biggest interference is belief. Self-belief. Your self-talk.     
Let me quickly sketch a story from the pages of the Old Testament of a man whose story rings eerily true for many of us.  His name is Lot.  Names meant a great deal in Biblical times.  Lot’s name means “covering”.  At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking, “What’s so important about that?”  Well, nothing except that “covering” or, to be more specific, “covering up” is one of the core problems with Man.  I am getting ahead of myself.  Okay.  This man, Lot, is an interesting character.
Like many of us, Lot understood how to live gracefully – a feat he accomplished whilst living in a community who, for the most part, lived disgracefully.  Lot was a resident, in fact, an elder statesman in a city called Sodom.  
Lot was the nephew of one of the Bible’s greatest heroes, a man by the name of Abraham whose name means “father of the multitude.”  Some time previously, they had both set out together from their home in Ur in the Chaldeans (modern day Iraq) but as they propsepered economically so their relationships became strained.  There was a growing tension among Lot and his uncle’s workers.  So, it was decided that they would split up and go their separate ways.  Abraham rather magnanimously gave Lot the choice of territories.
“Then Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.  Is not the whole land before you?  Separate yourself from me.  If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.’  And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar.  (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)  So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east.  Thus they separated from each other.” [Gen. 13:8-11]
Now Lot is the picture of the worldly believer.  In this one short paragraph, we get an insight into the mindset of a man of the flesh who walked by sight and not faith.  Lot reasons that seeing is believing.  Abraham, on the other hand, is a man of the Spirit who walked by faith and not sight.  He knows that believing is seeing.
First and foremost, Lot was guided by appearances.  The path he chose appeared to be the easiest.  Lot chose the familiar.  He took the sure bet, or so he thought, but notice how verse ten inserts, “(This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)”  
The consequence of Abraham’s choice has rightly been emphasised.  But I want to track with Lot for the moment. Lot settled in Sodom.  Little did he know that together with its equally dreadful sister-city Gomorrah, was scheduled for destruction.  Now, the Lord sent an angel to Lot to give him a heads-up and to get him and his loved ones evacuated before the city was razed to the ground.
Okay, so here is the interesting bit.  Lot’s vision for his life had been seriously impaired by a life amongst the squalid.  In the land of the blind, it is not a great achievement for the one-eyed man to become king.
But now, the angel confronted Lot.  Lot’s destination, heaven, was assured but the angel wanted to speak to the man’s destiny.  He was already saved we know that since Peter called him a righteous man [2 Pet. 2:7].  
“And as [the angels] brought them out, one said, ‘Escape for your life.  Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley.  Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.’  And Lot said to them, ‘Oh, no, my lords.  Behold, your servant has found favour in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life.  But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die.  Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one.  Let me escape there – is it not a little one? – and my life will be saved!’  He said to him, ‘Behold, I grant you this favour also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken.  Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.’  Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.  The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.” [Gen. 19:17-23]
Okay, here is the punch line – Lot, when confronted with his destiny of “the hills”, opted instead to flea to a place called Zoar.  As I have previously stated, names are significant and the name Zoar means “insignificant”.  What happened to Lot in the land of insignificance is a cautionary tale.  He would have much time to reflect on what might have been as he resettled in The City of Regret; he and his “Done” family – “woulda, shoulda, coulda” – with all their opportunities missed and lost.  Why would Lot choose Zoar over the dizzy heights of the hills which God had destined for him?  My guess is that it was F.E.A.R. – the overwhelming amount of False Evidence Appearing Real – which insists that you cannot be all you know yourself to be.
God has prepared a destiny specific to each and every one of us.  It is perfect for us and we are perfect for it.  We must not entertain Lot’s thoughts that “we cannot”.  We need not fear that disaster will overtake us.  Rather, like Abraham (the father of all who believe), let us lift up our eyes, knowing that the land of which we can see by faith, the Lord will give to us.    
Let us arise and walk the grace walk.  Let us discover who we are and what we can be and as we do so let’s be the helping hand that helps others to discover who they are too.