Written by Amanda

9/26/2017

On Bad Decisions, Hard Consequences, and This Thing Called Redemption


A hum of excitement coursed through the queue that snaked its way around the backside of the football field. It was barely recognizable as a line. You’d think after thirteen years of standing in lines, we’d have it down. Social status didn’t seem to matter that day, everyone talked to everyone. We all had something to say, something in common. What’s next for you? Can you believe it’s almost over? Some expressed sorrow over the passing season, some expressed joy to finally leave our cow-town. We were just one practice and one atrocious red cap and gown away from our hopeful futures.

The class president found me in one of the chattering clusters of the line. “Hey, Amanda. I got a question for you.” She pulled me aside. “We really want prayer to open our graduation, but no one is willing to get behind the podium or risk losing their diploma. I mean, I think the principal won’t care, but we aren’t actually allowed to pray. You could lose your diploma.” She paused so that last bit could sink in. “Will you do it?”

I probably should have had an ounce more hesitation. It was my diploma on the line. It was sneaking on a stage. I was going rogue, right off the black and white program everyone would be holding in their hand that night. Also, it was thousands of people. Classmates, grandparents, parents, siblings, uncles, teachers, friends… Thousands.

That’s not what I was thinking about though. I was more shocked that after the high school years I’d had, the transformation I’d undergone only a few months prior was drastic enough that I was identified as one of those happy-clappy Jesus followers. Also, my class wanted prayer in their graduation (and who’d have thunk it?).

That night, I walked up to the podium alongside the class president. Only one of us belonged on that stage. The principal gave me a sideways glance and looked at his schedule, but remained where he stood. I was trembling so I placed my hands on the podium to hide the tremors.

“Will everyone please bow your head with me.” My voice echoed across the football field. I’d never heard my voice so loud before. I took a deep breath, and I prayed. Out loud. Over the ceremony, over my class, over our futures. To the God of heaven and earth.

Me. The girl who almost didn’t graduate. Who ruined her chances of going straight to university like I’d dreamed of. Who skipped classes, who tried to drink her way to coolness, who dated all the wrong guys, who at that moment still bore scars on her arms, and who once tried to end her life. Maybe that prayer meant more to me than it did to everyone else.

Maybe if I’d have been someone else, maybe if I had a scholarship and letters of admittance from universities like all my fellow honors class students, maybe if I hadn’t spent my high school years screwing up, maybe then I would have thought of the risk. Maybe then I would have hesitated.

But I wasn’t that girl. And I didn’t have all that much to lose.

Maybe that’s why that moment felt exactly like redemption.

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In Jonah 1:6-17, we read the consequences to Jonah’s rebellion.

It’s easy to get sucked in and lost in Jonah’s story of running from God—the storm and the fish and his eventual trek to the Nineveh he’d been avoiding. It’d be easy to miss the extra characters in the story—that Jonah isn’t just a story about Jonah and Nineveh.

On board that ship getting thrashed by the storm is a living and breathing and terror-stricken crew.

We can tell a few things about this crew. We know they believed in many gods (v. 5). We know they must have been at least a mildly compassionate folk, for they do try to avoid throwing Jonah in the sea (v. 13). We know they were terrified—like pray-to-every-single-god-they-can-think-of-hoping-one-will-work-out kind of terrified (v. 5-6).

They might have believed in many gods, and it might have been Jonah’s rebellion that brought the storm in the first place. But between the violent tempest and the immediate calm when Jonah hit the waves, the crew experiences the mighty hand of the one true God. They are overcome with a holy awe. So much so they offer up sacrifices and make vows to God (v. 16).

The amazing thing about this story is that Jonah’s rebellion isn’t able to deter God from getting the glory. The same wind and waves that are the consequences of Jonah’s disobedience are the same wind and waves that God uses to introduce Himself as THE LORD—Jehovah—to this pagan group of men.

My jaw wants to hit the floor: God uses Jonah’s rebellion to display His glory.

Jonah might have thought he was running away from God’s plan; turns out he was running smack into God’s amazing grace and taking a whole crew with him.

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When I was in high school, I think I had this idea of God’s grace as though it was like that game of Kerplunk where you keep pulling at sticks until you pull that final one that makes the whole thing collapse.

I was certain I must have already pulled the last stick, made one mistake too many. I was drowning in depression and anxiety and regret before God stepped into my life.

Turns out, there is no final straw to the overwhelming, matchless, Grace of God. If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

It’s not that we should go about making all kinds of rebellious decisions. It’s that God’s grace holds us, catches us, and redeems even our hard consequences to our bad decisions.

He did it for Nineveh. He did it for a nameless crew out on the Mediterranean Sea. He did it for Jonah. He did it for this girl.

And, sister or brother, it doesn’t matter what shameful thing is hiding in your past, what bad decisions you’ve made, He’ll do it for you too.

Truth is, He already did. You have only to receive it by faith in Christ.

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Amanda is a law enforcement wife and a homeschooling mom to three. Her family has called Reality Church of Stockton home for three years. When Amanda’s not pulling her toddler off the bookshelf or explaining to picky eaters why vegetables need to be eaten, she enjoys iced lattes, bird watching, and deep conversations. She lives clinging to the hope she has in Christ that in spite of all her short-comings, she shall be called an overcomer yet. You can also find her writing her broken stories on her blog at Amanda Conquers.