My oldest son accepted an exciting new job in beautiful southern California, so I got a call to help him move. It was also my first opportunity to explore the beautiful Laguna Beach area. I had a good breakfast and set out on my own personal walking tour.
It was a gorgeous day and impossible to not marvel at God’s beauty and creativity. I couldn’t help but be reminded that in my wildest imagination, I would never have come up with something as amazing as a sea lion or skinny palm trees that can grow over 100 feet towards the sky. God’s imagination and creativity are mind boggling!
After a few hours, I was ready to give my feet a break so I climbed aboard a city bus headed in the direction of a new scenic spot (and lunch).
Sitting a couple rows in front of me was man about my age who, I gathered, lived on the streets. He was pleasant and carrying on a conversation with the bus driver. I learned his name was Jim. We were making a routine stop when another passenger from the back moved to get off the bus. Just before exiting, he noticed Jim, said hi, and instead of getting off, sat down in “Jim’s row” as the bus pulled away. The conversation then went something like this:
“Hey Jim, what are you doing today?”
“I’m just riding the bus.”
There was a short pause, a shrug of the shoulders and then he said,
The conversation continued with a discussion about various places where they had found things to eat or places to sleep. The contrast with the daily lives of my bus companions while being surrounded by the amazing wealth and beauty of Laguna Beach was profound. The bus made a new stop and a third man entered who instantly knew Jim and the other man.
“Hi Jim. Good to see you. Where you going?”
“No place. I’m just riding in the bus.”
“OK,” the man said and sat down in a neighboring seat.
The conversation picked up where it had left off as the three friends exchanged helpful information about places to go as well as places to avoid. Then their conversation took a different turn.
“Hey Jim, I’ve got some weed if you want.”
“Nah,” Jim answered, “I’m a drunk. I just want to drink.”
Jim’s other friend said he’d take some and without hesitation his friend reached into his pocket and handed over a joint.
“I heard your mom was in town,” the guy with the pot said to Jim.
“Yeah,” he answered, “It was my birthday. It was really good to see
her. She got me a hotel room so I could clean up and sleep in a bed.
She took me out to eat and told me about my kids.” Jim stopped, lost in thought. There was a long, silent pause.
“Your mom is great,” the other said. “Mine don’t like me much…”
I missed my stop and several after that. I was so entranced by their conversation everything else blurred away. I looked at these three men and I couldn’t help but wonder what their stories were. How did they get here? Where were their families? How do they survive from day to day? Then I thought of the popular phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
It’s Easter season, a time to celebrate that Jesus Christ, paid the price for our sins and rose again to reconcile us with God the Father. He conquered death, our greatest enemy, and if we would only believe, made us right with God.
The phrase, “There but for the grace of God, go I” is attributed to the English Reformer and martyr, John Bradford (1510 – 1555). It is meant to be an expression of humility and reliance on God’s grace. It is also a reminder that God’s grace brings hope to each one of us — me, you, the guys on that bus — if we will only look to Jesus.
The bus stopped, others got on, and I got off. I was about to return to my comfortable world. I stood and watched as the bus pulled away. It turned a corner and was quickly out of sight. All I could think was, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”