Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;
You are my trust from my youth.
By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.
My praise shall be continually of You. Psalms 71:4-6 (NKJV)
When our first two children were born the hospitals still considered fathers something of a nuisance; we were not allowed in the delivery space. I made the mistake of following the doc’s advice – he said, go on home and get some rest; this will take a long time! I went home, got in bed and the phone rang! Congratulations Pop….
I’m a slow learner, so I believed him the next time too, and did the same thing. Even writing about that today is a form of penance for maternity goof-ups of a new dad.
When our third child was born, the mothers-to-be union had successfully overcome the medical professional’s expert opinion on the presence of fathers-to-be in the birthing salon, so there was no option of missing this one (if I wanted to stay married). I don’t know why they didn’t put mothers in charge of figuring out the healthcare crisis.
Well, when the doc delivered our third-born, a little girl child, he wanted to hand the little package to me. My eyes must’ve been as wide as dinner plates. I shook my head….uh…uh! No…I might drop her. His simple reply, as he dumped her in my arms, is still ringing in my ears 30+ years later: bet’cha won’t! I didn’t!
Methodists have this peculiar idea that God is watching over us to catch us even when we don’t know there’s a crisis. I guess John Wesley could have gotten it from the Psalmist. “Prevenient” means “that which goes before”. To be “upheld from birth” means someone’s been out in front, catching you, protecting you, directing you, following you, leading you….. Well, you get the idea – caring for you.
Most people my age have at least a story or two about the time when, by all odds, your life should have ended. I have a few….operation, Vietnam, assorted episodes on the Interstate.
So, what was it that kept me alive all these years?
Or is it the hand of a loving Father that catches you?
The Wesleyan idea of “prevenient grace” is that we are not just being cared-for, but we are being led-to the God who cares for us. All this “going-before” is supposed to bring us to the loving embrace of the Father.
Sounds like a pretty good deal….great protection and benefit plan; He does it all!
The fly in this ointment is that prevenient grace also leads us to the knowledge that God has a prior claim on our lives, and that prevenient grace calls us to move-on from wandering about like a child. We are to move on to justifying grace, God’s saving gift of the cross. We are to acknowledge our sinful nature and trust Christ.
And, continuing our growth, we participate in His sanctifying grace – growing, being made perfect in love, as Christ’s disciple-servants.
My daughter never had a clue the doctor would toss her to my trembling arms. She didn’t have to – I would have caught her if it cost my life.It did cost Jesus that much. Be thankful for grace. Respond with love.