“I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see…” – Amazing Grace, John Newton
How many times have you sung that refrain? As a Southern Baptist from a very rural, small town in Mississippi, I would put the number in the thousands. I thought I understood what John Newton meant. I read about his story, as a reformed slave trader and Anglican clergyman. He had what can only be described as a “spiritual awakening.” He couldn’t unsee once he could finally see. And I now understand why.
When I first read about John Newton, I thought that he finally was able to see his own sin. That he could see his evilness as a slave trader, how he transported human lives as cargo. I thought that is what he could finally see. Only now, I think it was more than that. I think he saw his own brokenness. I think he probably already knew he was broken the entire time. What I think he finally saw was what I finally saw…so was everyone else.
I have said that before. I actually even know Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And I can even Google and find Romans 5:8 where Paul says “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Of course I know we are all sinners. Only, I thought I was the only one who was really a sinner. You know, the bad ones.
I had lunch with a friend from church last week. A friend that I respect and have been in Bible study with. I had the opportunity to share my story with him. I didn’t expect to or really honestly even want to. But he hit one of my criteria for telling my story…I heard in his conversation that he could benefit from it so I told him. As I told it, he kept asking questions, ones that only someone who knows they are broken too would ask.
I have another friend from where I used to live who has been talking with me about job advice and how to transition to a new role. He is struggling. Not just with the job itself or finding a new one. He is hurting, broken, dealing with the damage from isolating. I know the pressures he faces, the overwhelming feeling of grasping for control and not being able to find it.
The difference in what I sang about being blind and now seeing is that they are no longer words. Now I do see. I see my friend hurting from a pain he doesn’t think he can share. I watch the lack of trust my wife now has in even the small things I tell her because of my lifetime of deception. I see my mother and the hopelessness she finds on some days when my father can’t remember where he is, who his friends and family are or why she left to go to the bathroom.
And what I have found in my new sight is that like my brother John Newton, I can’t unsee anyone around me. I feel the trauma, loneliness, fear, anxiety and isolation that comes from being separated from our Savior. I see something else as well…I see hope in community with my brothers and sisters. I see the promise of eternity with my family and friends in the presence of God.