Because of travel to the east coast for two weeks, this will be the last Word of Grace message until Monday, October 14.
October will mark the 15th anniversary of these “Word of Grace” messages The original six recipients grew and now number subscribers in the thousands from Alaska to Zimbabwe. The messages are only sent to persons who request them or to list serves and newsletters that republish them. Some of them have found their way into two books.
My mission is to say positive things about God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ to busy men and women sitting down to their computers on Monday morning. I want to give them encouragement for the challenges of their work week.
Keeping a journal is part of my spiritual life. My journal is where these messages typically originate. But why would a California business lawyer write and send out messages about grace?
I rarely tell my own story any more. Life moves on and what the Spirit is doing here and now is always more important than a recounting of the past. I am making an exception because of the many new subscribers and because it’s the anniversary.
It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will stir hearts and minds to hunger for the Lord through this testimony. Remember that the grace of God is as available to you in every way as it is to me (Tit 2:11).
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
— Fanny Crosby, 1873
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and trust shall be your strength.
— Isaiah 30:15
Twenty-four years ago, I was a busy young attorney on the rise–managing partner of my law firm, civic leader, father of a precocious two-year- old son, restoring an old home with my spouse. This is the stuff of the American dream.
But there was a sinkhole underneath. For one thing I was totally consumed with work, oblivious to everything else. For another, I was spiritually bankrupt. I represented a Christian denomination and its flagship University, my alma mater. But the institution was in a civil war over its future and as its legal counsel I was right in the middle. Religion was a business to me and it was bad business.
There were warning signs of problems. Flare-ups of anger. Tears of unnamed sadness while driving from appointment to appointment.
I went to the headquarters of the Church for a meeting. On the way out the door leaving home, I picked up a book to read on the plane. The first pick was a novel. Something in me said, “no.” The next book in the pile was a book my brother had told me about: Ordering Your Private World, by Gordon MacDonald (Nashville, TN: Oliver-Nelson, 1985). I thought it was a time-management book. I’d ordered it through a secular book store in town. Settling in on the plane, I was surprised to find it was a Christian book.
MacDonald’s premise is that each of us has an inner-world of the heart and soul where our self-esteem is formed, and basic decisions about motives, values and commitments are made. This is the interior space where we commune with God. It has five sectors–motivation, time, intellectual growth, spirit, and Sabbath peace. If these sectors are properly centered in Christ and exercised by spiritual and intellectual disciplines our outer world of relationships will also be healthy. If this inner world is not ordered we can disintegrate in stress and dysfunction.
MacDonald contrasts the drivenness of King Saul of Israel with the calling of John the Baptist. This drivenness can trap us in a high-maintenance golden cage of success and leave us spiritually drained leading to a disastrous spiritual and moral collapse. I wasn’t many pages in before I thought, “He’s talking about me.” I read on with a mixture of curiosity and dread.
When I reached the hotel in Maryland, I watched the end of the baseball playoffs out on the west coast, and read some more before going to sleep. The next morning, I resumed reading and the thought occurred to me, “I should pray.” There was a problem. Life-long, professed Christian that I was, graduate of Christian schools, son of praying, Christian parents–I couldn’t pray. I mean, what do you say to God when you aren’t trying to pass a test, win a case, make a deal. I paced the room in growing frustration–I couldn’t pray. Finally, I blurted out something incoherent to the effect, “God, I’d like to talk to you but I don’t know how.”
The day was filled with business, but there was no resolution to the institutional conflict. The next morning followed the same pattern with my reading and struggling to pray. I began the flight home. In Chicago I changed planes. At 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon, just after take off from O’Hare International Airport, I read this prayer that MacDonald quoted from an old Salvation Army evangelist, Samuel Logan Brengle:
Keep me, O Lord, from waxing mentally and spiritually dull and stupid. Help me to keep the physical, mental, and spiritual fibre of the athlete, of the man who denies himself daily and takes up his cross and follows Thee. Give me good success in my work, but hide pride from me. Save me from the self-complacency that so frequently accompanies success and prosperity. Save me from the spirit of sloth, of self-indulgence, as physical infirmities and decay creep upon me” (p. 151).
I was in the window seat. The plane was still on its ascent. As I read this prayer, I heard a distinct, audible voice, and God said to me: “You are convicted of sin. Your pride and busyness have choked me out of your life and are killing your relationship with your family. Don’t you think I can take care of the University and everything else you’re concerned about. Trust me.”
That was it. It affected me physically. I squirmed in my seat, heart racing. For months afterwards, I felt tender and raw, like I had been burned out inside. Setting the book aside, I stared out the window, stunned. This was real and overpowering. All I could do was yield to the presence of a God who had just run me over with the big “Mack truck” of grace.
When we landed in Ontario, I knew I had to tell my wife, Patricia, what had happened. When I drove in the driveway, she was already home from work and came out to greet me. “We need to go pick up Andrew at the baby sitter,” she said.
“OK. But first I have to tell you something.”
“Is everything, OK?” she asked.
“Well, yes and no.”
We sat down in the living room. I told her what had happened. Then I said,”Every bit of talent that God has given me for leadership and organization, I have squandered. I do all these things and then, if that wasn’t enough, I start new organizations. I don’t ask God if I should do any of these things.”
“I come home late, and eat supper and play with Andrew a while. Then I go upstairs and shut the door and work past midnight, night after night. No one else in the firm does that. I just do it to show I can do all this stuff and more. I come in after you are asleep and I am up and out before you are awake.”
“You’re ill and are fighting the loss of your eyesight. When you’re angry and upset about it, I just ‘shine you on,’ and say ‘don’t dump this on me.’ ”
I looked at her and said, “I have been so selfish, and I am sorry, so sorry that I am sick in my bones. Things are going to have to be different. It would help if you were in this with me.”
Patricia looked at me a while. She said, “Things have been out of control for a long time. We have gone from a great marriage to an ordinary marriage. I want this too.”
We bowed our heads and prayed together. We went and picked up our son.
The differences were immediate and lasting. I developed an enormous appetite for the Word of God. God left nothing in my life unturned. The green shoots of new life came poking through the burned-over, dead spaces of my life.
I quit eight board and committee memberships in a day. My life became centered in Christ and the quiet time I spend in study and prayer with Him every morning.
From three active believers in my office at the time, fifteen employees since that time have accepted Christ or renewed a relationship with him. A number of clients, friends, and readers have come to Christ, some of them through the “Word of Grace for Your Monday” devotionals that I began writing in 1998 on the same computer I prepare legal documents. This all happened quietly without proselytizing. Prayer, encouragement and the witness of a changed life have power.
Along the way, I have come to understand “conversion,” not as a one-time, dramatic change, but as a process in which Christ perseveres in taking over my life in all of its aspects. He refuses to coexist with what’s already in my soul. Gently, but persuasively, Christ moves out the furniture and empties the rooms of my heart and mind and then occupies them. The Apostle Paul aptly describes the rule of life for this conversion process in Colossians 3:1-17:
If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death therefore whatever in you is earthly. . . As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another. . . forgive each other. . . Above all, clothe yourselves with love. . . let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. . . And be thankful. . . let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. . . with gratitude in your hearts sing. . . to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Of course, I stubbornly hold out on Christ’s advances and resist his requests at times, but the Holy Spirit leans against the locked doors of my heart with the weight of love until they cave in. Christ is no dainty fop or pious prig. He does not wilt at my rage and or wither away with my rejection. He does not flinch from me at my leprous, malevolent worst, because he intends to be my shining best. He refuses to accept my “no” as the final answer. My salvation requires “tough love,” but Jesus’ love is the toughest of all.
God changed my life not in a pew or a classroom. He changed it in the real world where I love my wife, enjoy good times with my son, make deals, argue cases, write contracts and supervise employees. His changes continually demand of me that I unlearn and give up many ways of thinking and behaviors, even some that the world applauds.
Every turn in the road, God, manifest in his Son Jesus Christ, has become much greater and encompassing than I thought before. Everything else continues to fade in comparison to his glory. I beg Him sometimes to leave me with some treasured memory, harbored thought, or guarded feeling, but he is relentless with his transforming grace. I can never go back to the way it was before.
Many years after the intervention of God on that airplane, I am more sure of him than ever, and less sure of everything else. What does that mean? It means that in the darkest chambers of my being I’ve heard my Abba whisper, “I love you, Kent.” As he has turned up the light, I have come to know that I am loved and capable of loving as a practical reality, not as a mere abstract ideal.
The truth of God’s prevailing love is always confirmed to me when I see it take hold in other aching and hungry hearts. That’s something for which I pray and it’s why I keep writing these messages.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Placespublished by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.
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