Think of a monster, you name it I’ve been it. It’s been a hell of a ride, but I’m in it. The birth of the Queen is the death of a cynic. I’ma be good, just give me a minute.
I was sitting on an airplane reading “Amazing Grace” by Eric Metaxas. The section of the book I was reading was catching the reader up on current events and context of the late Abolitionist, William Wilberforce. William had a mentor named John Newton. You may know John Newton as the author of many hymns…likely his most famous one being Amazing Grace. In this particular section, the author was painting the picture of the person that became the song writer, vicar and discipler–John Newton, before encountering Jesus. John was a ship captain/sailor in the Royal Navy, and was a slave merchant. In his own words, he tortured souls and sold them.
There’s only a few books that have caused such a deep and intense reaction as this small section of this book did in me. It wasn’t that I was appalled by horrific John’s profession was. It was that I had no idea that a song so influential and widely praised came from someone whose story had such a dark mark upon it… AND, I didn’t expect that it would be in that piece of history that I related most.
We’ve seen this happen throughout the Bible. Paul was a missionary killer, Samson was prideful, the disciples were tax collectors and Moses was a coward/murderer. However John Newton is just a bit more modern. He is less “storied” and more real human. And trafficking…well we all hate that. Christians and non-Christians despise human abusers and users…and that’s an area or format of sin that scares most Christians. Does god forgive them? Does God make THEM into great leaders?
At this point in time in my life, there on the airplane, I’d yet to confess to really anyone of consequence that I had hidden/was blind to a sexual addiction and pornography issue that caused me to cross moral and ethical boundaries. These boundaries were set by myself, the organization I worked with…and they were those boundaries that when crossed, would cause such confusion when interacting with God. Thoughts like, “I can never be forgiven for this..no one else struggles with this…My sin is obviously too dark, too deep, too real. How long must I live perfectly to be rid of this guilt?”
John Newton sold people to be used as a commodity. He was a slave merchant and aided in others’ pain and suffering.
…and God took him from shame to grace. Used him to rise up someone who would liberate hundreds of thousands of slaves…and God put him in positions of honor and allowed him to serve others and the cause of His Kingdom. Even more exciting in the little blurb I was reading, John Newton seemed to know and live deeply in the comfort and peace of Jesus. He seemed OKAY with himself.
I guess the thought that was planted in my heart in THIS particular moment in history, there, on the airplane on my way to Kansas City, Mo., was the thought that MAYBE someone with such a nasty secret hidden in their story, could be used for something awesome and great.
Side note: No matter how many amazing stories you hear of the broken and hurt person, it’s much different when you feel like the villain. When the story goes like, “Then I did this”…rather than, “Then, this was done to me”. There’s this “I deserve to pay for this” mentality.As Christians we often parade stories of people that we victims, but what of the aggressor? Does God enjoy healing and using them? No one trusts people that hurt other people…
Well, we all know just a little bit of hope is enough to overthrow an
entire kingdom…and this was one piece in the journey to me coming out as an addict and broken person. This was one story of a man that should be publicly hated for his crimes against humanity…but knowingly or not: most of the United States and even other nations sing one of his Psalms every Sunday (or at least frequently).