The Sparkling Ocean of Grace
FEBRUARY 1, 2022
We will feast in the house of Zion; We will sing with our hearts restored. “He has done great things,” we will say together; We will feast and weep no more.1
My brother Matt led me to the grace of Jesus.
Back when he was five and I was four, our family attended a Baptist church. This was back when Baptist
churches still had “Baptist” in their names and when they still ended their services with altar calls.
The story is so simple that except for the “grace of Jesus” part, it barely seems noteworthy. Matt walked
down the aisle. Later at lunch, our parents asked him about it. He told them he had decided to follow
Jesus. In five-year old terms, he talked about sin and atonement, trust and discipleship… and sure as the
gathered peoples back at Pentecost heard the Gospel in their own languages, I heard it in mine that day.
I went to a room all by myself and asked Jesus to cover my sins, too. I told Him I wanted to follow Him,
and neither Matt nor I have ever looked back. (How could we? Heidelberg #1 and all.)
Matt died earlier this year.
Wow, that is a surreal sentence to write.
His oxygen dipped. He tested as having COVID antibodies, but they put him in a COVID unit because of
his symptoms, so we couldn’t see him. He signed a form saying he did not want to be put on a
ventilator, and shortly after, he started texting whomever he could think of, asking them to pick him up.
He was sure the hospital was going to vent him against his will, he said. I texted him with all of the
bossiness of a little sister and told him to simmer down because nobody would vent him against his will.
Those were my last successfully communicated words to my brother because he was right. Before we
knew it, they had vented him and put him into a medically-induced coma to do so. Two weeks later, he
Those are some raw and intimate details from a hard and confusing time, and I only share them here for
the purpose of trying to convey what I really want to tell you, which starts with the achy place in my
heart the night before he died.
They said we could have an hour. He was on his stomach, his face smooshed into his pillow, in his
unwanted medically-induced coma with his weak lungs.
My dad died almost five years ago, and while it was heartbreaking, it was also full of hymns and last
words and glimpses of beauty.
But this? There were conversations I hadn’t known we needed to have and questions I knew would
never get answered and apologies I never thought I’d have to make. There were left-undone things in
his life – his wife and three kids out in the lobby and my broken-hearted mom outside the room… and in
the room there was this black hole that consumed my questions and apologies and prayers and spit
nothing back out.
The Spirit of God hovered. As sure as I am writing this, His Spirit hovered over that nothingness in that
room. Then a Voice of authority said, “Let there be light,” and I saw.
I saw an ocean, and it was vast. “My grace,” God whispered. “See, it’s big enough.”
Then I saw all of Matt’s mistakes and failures and sins swallowed up in that vast ocean, and I knew I
could search the rest of my life and never find them.
Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me… 2
Suddenly, where before there had been only death, that room was sparkling with Life. This Life was not
rooted in anything our medical system had to offer but in a Savior who had swept my brother up into
this current of grace and carried him throughout his entire life, finally emptying him into this beautiful
ocean. And since this Savior can scour even the ocean’s depths and find what He seeks, Matt was about
to be scooped up, fully sanctified.
O Death, where is your victory?
O Grave, where is your sting? 3
Once, when Matt was five and I was four, he led me to the grace of Jesus. Neither of us knew that many
years later on his deathbed, he would lead me there again.
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death –
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His
precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also
watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in Heaven. In fact, all things must work
together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy
Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and
ready from now on to live for Him.
~Heidelberg Catechism, question 1