Prevenient Grace

August 12, 2012

The Methodist Church, of which I am a member, characterizes the grace of God into three parts: prevenient, sanctifying, and justifying (you can read about them here). In its most basic form, prevenient grace as understood by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, is described as:

“Wesley understood grace as God’s active presence in our lives. This presence is not dependent on human actions or human response. It is a gift—a gift that is always available, but that can be refused. God’s grace stirs up within us a desire to know God and empowers us to respond to God’s invitation to be in relationship with God. God’s grace enables us to discern differences between good and evil and makes it possible for us to choose good….God takes the initiative in relating to humanity. We do not have to beg and plead for God’s love and grace. God actively seeks us!”

I’ve always known the church definition of prevenient grace, always loved the idea of it. But, two weeks ago I had the most eye opening conversation with one of our pastors, Todd Craig. We were discussing how law, as described in the Old Testament, fits in with grace. He said that prevenient grace, the grace that comes before, is often all about law. He asked how we could not see God’s grace in creating boundaries out of love for us? For example, when your parents told you not to touch the hot stove, didn’t they do so out of love for you? They set this boundary in place before you even thought about touching the hot stove, and, if obeyed, saved you from so much pain. Todd said, the same is true for God. Why do I miss the fact that his “rules” are full of his grace and often save us from a lot of pain and anguish? Why do I miss His active presence in my life that goes before everything I do inviting me into deeper relationship with Him?

I started thinking about this in my life, and I began to see it all over – prevenient grace.

On a large scale, I don’t have a life story of drastic change. I grew up with a wonderful family, was raised in church, and made, for the most part, levelheaded decisions. Like many people with similar stories, I have sometimes wished I had a huge transformation through which I could clearly see and sing the praises of God’s saving grace. Todd’s point was that although God did not save me out of the midst of a life of drug abuse, a martial affair, or something of the like, He very much saved me. He saved me from going down that path in life at all, and that my friends is just as much covered in grace as if he had saved me from that life.

I got to meet the love of my life at age 17. Had you asked me all those times when I was crying in the airport bathroom after another goodbye if it felt like prevenient grace, I would have answered with a resolute no. But now when I have precious single friends in their 30s still waiting for the godly husband I have gotten to spend 9 years of my life with, my answer is a profound yes. God’s grace was all over that.

I started this blog almost 2 years ago. I took a cake decorating class with my mom sometime around the same time. Born out of a strange new love for photography, I enrolled myself in a photography class last spring. All of these skills have become invaluable as I have begun this journey of starting Wild Flour, working on a website, and photographing my own baked goods. Yet it was not even a thought in my mind when I started this blog or enrolled in those classes. I can guarantee it was a thought in God’s – prevenient grace.

When I started my first semester at OU not knowing a soul, but I ended up in a sorority where I had one single connection that lead to one of the strongest friendships of my life which lead to Bible studies and eventually a church home in Tulsa where I met the pastor that inspired the thoughts in this post. That one conversation that might not have happened changed the course of my college life and consequently the life I lead today. Prevenient grace.

These are big examples in my life, but God’s grace is all over in little ways too. I’ve loved thinking about it, and I am absolutely grateful for all it. I’m grateful for the freedom that is found in obedience to the way of God.

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