The Time for Restoration: Real Grace
Faith ain’t easy to understand, where a bird in a bush is worth two in a hand.
– Newsboys, God is not a secret
Fast forward to 2016.
Today, I was sitting on my couch. My back firmly enjoying the backrest. Hands on the arm rest. I never could do that. Either it would hurt an inflamed part of the body, or that I was afraid to leave bloodstains.
My body is pain-free. Complexion so much better. Almost like it never happened.
I notice that I actually have a career now, and its not a trivial one either. Its better than I could have thought after losing so much time in this unfair world. Data analytics, fund management and market intelligence development, and a Christian writer. It was only 5 years ago that I was none of these, starting from scratch.
It’s like the devil tried to destroy me. In a way, he did. But God simply raised up a new me through the ashes. What a great comfort to know that even if you are pushed to destruction, God can do what the world cannot, He can give a Rebirth. A New Me. A New You.
I’m sitting here in Nashville. I was dreaming of being in the USA years ago for personal and career development but had a zero chance of going. I wasn’t a “professional” and didn’t do anything notable in career that qualified me for a visa. I’m in a New Place. A New Country with New Possibilities.
Sitting here, all peaceful, with a smile on my face. Enjoying just the air around me. Pain-free. It feels so strange. It feels so alien.
I’m planning my day. I’m planning to go shoot some hoops later, and maybe enjoy the outdoors the day after. Yesterday, I simply could sit by the backyard, enjoy the outdoor breeze and setting sun while smoking a cigar. I remember the days that I couldn’t plan any of those things as I had to live in a bubble, lest the pain turn to something gravely worse.
I remembered how excruciating the pain was and crushing the depression was. When I look at the pictures, or when I remember the prison that was my room, I wonder where the pain is? A strange dream, indeed.
In those 15 years of capitulation, it was unfair, I didn’t know what else I could have done. Nothing could stop me from going down and down. In the last few years of restoration, there were no reasons, it was unfair, there was nothing I could have done except consciously committing myself to God’s grace in Jesus. Nothing seemed to stop me going up and up. That’s God’s timing and God’s grace. Because of Jesus, I didn’t deserve the “punishment”, I also didn’t deserve the blessings by my own efforts. Because of His perfect timing, both are used to paint a beautiful, meaningful picture. God uses the Bad and the Good to create Great.
Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more… And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.
– Philip Yancey, What’s so amazing about Grace?
Beauty in walking with Jesus alone
Of great comfort to know, that it was in the solitude where I have wrestled with Jesus, walked with Jesus, and finally let Him carry me on His shoulders that made all the difference. There was a restoration not just in health, but career as well. Not just in typical ways, but in ways that bear the signature of God.
I didn’t “do” anything those people told me to do. I didn’t meet any new prophet. I didn’t increase in my positive thinking. I didn’t increase my church attendance, I couldn’t go to the church. Jesus simply met me where I was – when I was alone and abandoned. He told me that even if no one would walk with me, He would walk with me and, the effects would be undeniable. I made the commitment to no longer “hunt” for the typical human experience (great wife, great career, great wealth) but rather to follow Jesus instead. I would give up the obvious things in my hands, to look for the intangible – God’s will and God’s future for me which I could not see at all. What I didn’t realize is that in abandoning the world, God would start to give me a new one… a better one. A bird in a bush is worth two in a hand indeed.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
Grace in many forms: The time for restoration.
This is what Grace looks like in a picture.
What happened in 2016? What happened in 2009 that started to change this direction? Nope, my medical treatments did not change. If I said, “Jesus happened”, that would be true; but I would be short changing you leaving out the details. For this reason do I write this book in order to capture the nuances of beauty and meaning observed while transitioning through the Abyss while wrestling with God and His promises. The abyss seeks to ensnare and pull you back in like a blackhole. In Jesus, He is working to bring you to the New Country and for you to become the New You. where meaning and love abound in this world. This is not a tug-of-war between the Abyss and Jesus (that’s too one dimensional for a great God), that’s too small for Him; I find that He is transforming your whole landscape altogether. If only we step up and go through Jesus.
Grace leaking slowly into other areas
In order to shatter the skeptic within me (as a competitive chess player, I’m OCD analytical), the restoration leaked into other areas of my life too. I went from having a washed up career with no one wanting to hire me (that’s what happens when you are out of the workforce for 5 years and then try to start in a new profession – no one wants to work with a 35-year-old rookie with a health problem) to being trained in Seminary, and a very successful stint as a Markets and Equities financial analyst. God’s hand was with me. By my second year, my stock recommendation would have clients more than 70% gains in a year while the actual market price came within 3% of my target price… not once but twice. It shatters statistical odds. Statistically, 80% of analysts’ calls do not come within 20% of their target price within a year. This report is for publicly available for all to see. When I first came in as an analyst, I did not have a CFA or finance degree or knew how to do a formal financial model.
How is it possible?
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
– Luke 18:27, NIV
Among many other things (He is truly everything), Jesus is my Wisdom. This result is not something I can reproduce at will. But this has happened to me more than once, and each time I know it’s that Grace I will expound on in the book. He makes a way when there seems to be no way. I am not advocating that we “use” God to make money. God is not a vending machine. God is not an ATM.
But Jesus is your husband, and wants to fulfill your needs according to His riches and glory (Phil 4:19). He knows what we need, much more than we do.
These events were breakthroughs that I needed specifically at that time to give hope when hope was gone. This is but one example of how God restored all my years of financial barrenness. At present I am still utilizing those skills and growing. Yes, God is certainly making up for lost time. When I see the place I am today in my career, there was no earthly way I could have been here based on my own efforts. The statistics were clear to me, it was significantly against me – a broken, “useless” vessel. It was to show that “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7)
This is what Grace looks like on a stock chart.
This is what Grace looks like on a chart. The World will take notice. Some will applaud. Some will be envious. Some will condemn. Some will attribute it to chance. But all will know something is up and will take notice. God would do many more such “statistically difficult” events in the next few years. You’ll read more in future chapters. It was to convince the agnostic in me that this season of restoration wasn’t because of luck, or psychosomatic recovery. Psychosomatics and positive thinking cannot explain all the events so far especially how I got my present job and present financial situation that restored what I had lost in those years. Thought still quite alone, God was running with me.
Did I awake from a bad dream? Or am I dreaming right now? Perhaps neither, or perhaps both. Or maybe the dream is becoming one with reality. Either or, Jesus can make beautiful things out of the junk of our lives. Isn’t it amazing that at the end of the process, we can look back and the very things that were ugly becomes beautiful in the context of the whole story?
To be continued in the next part – Introductions 3: Perplexing Players, Perfectly-placed Props.
But the path leading up to this point challenged the core of my humanity. The words “forgiveness”, “condemnation”, “hope”, “love”, “purpose”, “hardship” were no longer just words on a page. They were entities that played with me, laughed at me, slapped me in the face, disappeared totally, appeared strongly, then became more beautiful as they laughed with me.
This story is not about the “tragic before and beautiful afters”. I hope my introduction so far has opened up just a tiny tip of the iceberg in both the difficult situation as well as the process of restoration. There is much more that I am dying inside to share. The path in-between had many players and props. A prison I called my room. Church, people around me. Family. All of them added to my dissonance. The dissonance eventually led me back to Christ above all others. Please read on.