“though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me”
(1 Corinthians, Chapter 15, Verse 10)
Someone once wrote, “Our lives are a wonderfully messy tapestry of earthly disappointments, grace and God’s abundant love.” That was my now fiancée, Jessica Knell. Her modest nature scolds me for quoting her work, but her words are true, nonetheless.
On the same vein, Oswald Chambers said, “Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life – gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring.”
Many of us feel this summarises our 2020 so far with lockdowns, coronavirus, and uncertainty around the corner. This feeling is something I have experienced throughout my life, only to find God present and glorified.
They tell you it is all in your head – until it actually is
I was born with a common condition in the neurological world, but a scary one nonetheless, when my grandmother, in mid-1995, found water glazing over my eyes. I had hydrocephalus, a build-up of water on my brain due to a blockage.
This led to one of several neurosurgeries I would experience throughout my life – the most recent being in February this year.
Not long after the initial surgery in 1995, my parents’ relationship ended and I was raised by my mother. Life was not normal. Living with my mum, I spent alternating weekends with my Nan and my Dad.
And then came the huge change when, at the age of seven, I moved to Laos, one of the most impoverished nations in Southeast Asia, and a remaining bastion of 20th-century Communism.
The Holy Spirit is in your midst
I was not raised Christian. There was no overt antagonism to His name, but neither was He praised.
Shortly after I moved countries, my Dad received Christ and married. Much to my disliking at the time, this meant weekly church each time I would visit at Christmas. Despite my adversity to pews, Christ needed no visa to enter Laos, and I was often invited by friends from school to join their youth group.
Needless to mention, I relented to their invites. Not expecting much, I was confronted by a preacher speaking of the Holy Spirit. Not knowing what on earth he was talking about, I sought to know this Holy Spirit. I turned to Scripture and read. And read. And read.
And the Spirit moved, convicted, and led me to proclaim Christ. Church that I once disliked, I now cherished, and I have cherished for the past twelve years.
As I sought to make sense of this faith I proclaimed, I devoured books (sometimes to my own detriment – I’m looking at you Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”).
I loved to read – and I soon loved to write.
I think. A lot. When I don’t have the time to verbalise my thoughts, I write them instead. And what I have found is that God’s threads of grace have never ceased to be present in my life.
Chambers’ words are true. Life is very uncertain, but God’s presence and grace are never ceasing, and this makes life beautiful. For this very reason, and because I thought she was cute, I said “Hi” to someone I had not met before at church in February 2019.
That same person introduced me to Christian Today New Zealand, and is the same person, Jessica Knell, who I will have the joy of marrying this year.
As I write this, Auckland has just spent day two in limited lockdown, and the rest of the nation with social restrictions, in response to a surge of new cases.
My own story has taught me, “thought it was not I, but the grace of God”. And though life seems uncertain, there is joy in Him who is certain. Not only in 2020, but from our first breath until our last.
[Editor - Blake Gardiner last year was awarded the Tronson Award in the Press Service International NZ young writer program for consistency and leadership in the program. This year Blake has been awarded the Press Service International NZ young writer program’s Youth Development Award.]
Hailing from North Auckland, Blake Gardiner sounds American, looks Swedish, but grew up in Laos. As an introvert, Blake lives life on the edge by socialising. When he isn’t putting his life at such risk, he enjoys reading theology and debating whether Interstellar is truly the greatest movie of all time. Blake is married to fellow young writer Jessica Gardiner.