Sally’s Story

The woman I’d so easily disregarded while she lived had become a dilemma in her death … To many Christians, Sally’s destiny was an easy judgment. Having never accepted Christ, Christ wouldn’t accept her. She was doomed to hell.

I grew up believing we were destined for either heaven or hell … that only those who … accepted Jesus as their Savior before they died would live with God forever. All the rest would suffer hell’s eternal torment …

Now Sally’s life and death had unsettled what was once a sure conviction … she had been drawing close to God. She’d turned from the path of destruction. She’d been asking, seeking and knocking. I couldn’t believe God would invite Sally to His home, then slam the door as she stood at the threshold. It seemed a cruel joke …

Though it defied the formula I’d been taught, I wanted God to be gracious to Sally. My scorn gave way to sympathy …

The longer I thought, the clearer the answer became.

God loved Sally far more than I … If the little I knew had changed my heart toward Sally, why was it so hard to believe God was even more gracious? It was the formula. It limited God’s grace.

The next day at the funeral, instead of talking about the formula, I spoke of grace. I read … a story of a father and his prodigal son, of a son who wandered afar before turning toward home, of a father waiting, hoping and longing.

I said, “Some people think God sits on a throne, holding fast to holiness and injustice, waiting for us to grovel at His feet. But last night, as I thought about Sally I remembered another prodigal’s homecoming. I realized God is never content to wait on His throne. God was standing at the door watching for Sally, just as surely as that father watched for his prodigal; and while she was yet at a distance, God saw her and had compassion. God ran and embraced her. God welcomed her home …”

Writing Sally’s eulogy was the breaching of a dam – the first rivulet of what would soon become a coursing flood. For many years God had been eroding my obsessive devotion to judgment, punishment and wrath … Sally’s funeral simply washed away any remnants of resistance. The dam ruptured, and grace swept through, softening ground that had long been cracked and dry.

Philip Gulley / James Mulholland
If Grace Is True, pages 4-9

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