New Believers Class, Suicide Attempts, and Snapshots of Grace

I’m teaching a new believers class at my church.  And I’m leading what I’ve begun calling a “Bible in 490 Days” group.   I have to admit, I am far more uncomfortable teaching the new believers class.  I feel woefully inadequate.

I looked around the room and the only thought I had was, “Lord, I’m such a mess. What can I tell them? How do I encourage them? And what about the truth that this whole disciple thing is just hard?  What do I do with that?”

snapshots of grace www.terilynneunderwood.com

It was 15 minutes past time to begin and I had stalled long enough so I did what all good Bible study teachers do when they have no clue where to begin and said, “Okay, well, let’s start with prayer.”

I have no clue what my audible prayer contained … but I know when I said “Amen,” I had absolute clarity about what to say to these eager eyes looking at me for direction and encouragement.

It went a little something like this:

Y’all, I am just going to be honest.  I’m a mess.  A big, falling-down, showing-out, speaking-when-I-shouldn’t mess.  I haven’t arrived and, to be honest, the only thing that qualifies me to teach a class for new believers is that I’ve been one.  And some days I feel like I’m still one.  This disciple of Christ thing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I told them about growing up in church and checking all the “church stuff” off my list.  I shared about going to a Christian college and skipping church but putting on “church clothes” to go eat in the cafeteria on Sundays so no one would know I hadn’t been to church that morning.   And then I heard myself talking about January 1995 when I swallowed a bottle of pills and landed on suicide watch in Huntsville Hospital.

They looked at me, wide-eyed and no doubt wondering how I landed the New Believers Class teaching gig.   And then it happened. They started telling their stories … about growing up in church and walking away, falling away.

As I listened, I was reminded of this beautiful truth … with God, nothing is left unredeemed.  Our trials, our wanderings, our questions, our heartaches—every bit of it becomes another snapshot of grace when we trust it to Him.

After we shared our stories, I reminded them that our life with Christ is the most amazing and fabulous journey.  We looked at some Scripture and talked about quiet times and prayer and I told them there is no perfect quiet time.   I looked straight into the tired eyes of  the sweet pregnant mom of 3 under 4 and reminded her that God offers us rest.  I smiled at the woman with the self-proclaimed issue of anger and shared that self-control never comes easy but the Spirit is at work in us.  And I looked across the table at a man who is doing all he can to provide for his family and still has more week than paycheck and told him how much I respected him for setting the example for his children of hard work and faith in God.

A few moments later I was sitting in our sanctuary singing these words,

There is no valley, there is no darkness
there is no sorrow greater than the grace of Jesus.
There is no moment, there is no distance,
there is no heartbreak He can’t take you through.
So before you think that you’re too lost to save,
Remember there is nothing greater than grace.

And I was overwhelmed.   Because that’s my story … and whether you’re a “new believer” or a old saint, it’s your story too.

Wondering … when was the last time you were just overwhelmed by Jesus?

{The song I mentioned, here is a video of Point of Grace singing it … totally worth the time to listen. Also, it was written by Russellville native, Sam Mizell, who graciously allowed our church choir to join him in singing it this past Sunday.  Yeah, I was totally crying my way through it.}

10 Replies to “New Believers Class, Suicide Attempts, and Snapshots of Grace”

  1. I totally feel inadequate when I teach too, and I am working to be more transparent and to teach the body of Christ to act like a body and not appendages flailing around. Your example encourages me to keep going in that direction, all the while emphasizing the grace of God and the power of His Holy Spirit to work in our lives. I know blogging is supposed to be about writing for your readers, but it’s all about my journey as I struggle through to victory in my own life. Right or wrong, that’s where it is for me.
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    1. Your words this morning are such an encouragement to me. And oh aren’t we all just a little bit guilty of being the “appendages flailing around” sometimes? So thankful that God uses all of that to HIS glory.

  2. Oh sweet friend. I wish I was in that class. You are qualified to teach, because you are His. I learn from you every post you write. xo

    1. *through the tears this morning* I am just overwhelmed at how my life looks today … so big and beautiful and at the same time small and rich. Thankful you are part of all of it.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I think that’s the beauty of being authentic. Yes, it leaves us vulnerable, but sometimes it can really bless others and that’s what matters.

    1. “the beauty of being authentic” … I just love when God makes beauty from ashes, don’t you?

  4. 1. I totally remember the clothes thing {because the whole town came to our cafeteria to eat on Sunday, y’all. It wasn’t just to cover it up for the friends. It was for the faculty and staff and pretty much everyone}.
    2. I love your honesty and your heart. Can we be friends? 😉
    3. Shauna Niequist’s “Bittersweet” – if you haven’t read it yet, you need to. The last essay at the end talks about this same thing, that we share our stories and share Jesus at the same time—and that our real, gritty, true stories tell the Gospel more than a pretty one from a pulpit.

    1. Yeah, when the whole town eats at your college cafeteria on Sundays, you wear something besides sleep pants, right? Ha! I’m thankful you were the first person I met at SBU and that twenty-something years later you are still a vibrant, beautiful part of my life. And I will be adding that book to my wish list.

      1. Me too!! Me too! You’re precious to me!
        Also, confession: I skipped to the end essay in “Bittersweet” because I needed to read that message last week. I’m still only halfway through. Good, good things in that book. I aspire to write even half that beautifully.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story Teri Lynne. Like you, I share with other that our stories of Gods grace and mercy allows others to open up and share their struggles. I love seeing God use you. Sharing my past is never easy, I often feel unworthy but then take a step back and remember I AM WORTHY. His death and resurrection made me worthy. I miss you…Will be glad to see you in a couple weeks.

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