Amazing Grace is the title of one of my late husband’s favorite songs. The song has great meaning for many people because it was created from powerful life experiences. I want to tell you a little about the writer’s life because I believe his experiences have meaning for all of us.
Amazing Grace was written by John Newton. He was born in 1725 and was taken to sea by his father at age eleven. He was forced into the Royal Navy in his teens where he was eventually exchanged to a slave ship after he attempted to desert the Navy. Over the next years, he went from being a slave to being the captain of a slave ship, transporting slaves from Africa to the West Indies. He truly knew what being a wretch was on both ends of the dichotomy. John Newton had a Christian conversion during this time at sea and eventually gave up slaving and returned to England to become a minister. He spent the remainder of his life preaching and was instrumental in banning slavery from Britain.
What does John Newton’s story have to do with us? I believe it relates to everyone. Many people want to change the words of this song when it says, “saved a wretch like me” to “saved a soul like me”. Some people want to deny that they have ever been wretched or a wretch. They must have forgotten puberty and the teen years.
Everyone has had some experience with being wretched. Unfortunately, most people want to pretend they never were wretched so they can cover up their wretchedness with facades and continue to be miserable. Some people want to justify being wretched to others because they were once hurt themselves. They create from the pain they saved and use it to, in turn, hurt others. How often do you hurt yourself and others because you were hurt? The abused becomes the abuser; the slave the slave trader.
Like John Newton, we all experience opposites in life. His experiences were extreme; from slave to slave trader to minister banning slavery. Even though our lives may not be as dramatic as his, we can all identify with his life experiences. Take a moment and reflect on the similarities in your life. Who are you or have you been a slave to? Have you enslaved yourself to a belief, money, work? Who do you enslave? Do you treat anyone badly or unfairly? Do you believe in the rightness of something enough to give your life to it or do you stay uncommitted to anything except survival?
John Newton experienced being in what we might call hell. He found his way out of his self-made hell through faith. What kind of hell have you created? Can you allow your spiritual light to show you the way out of your difficulties to a place of peace? We have spiritual techniques to help us heal ourselves and communicate as spirit. And yet, even then, many do not listen and receive the grace available.
We are all learning lessons in our unique way. Some make the learning process more difficult than others. We are all seeking spiritual awareness. “I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.” We can learn to use our life experiences to create a relationship with our God, instead of wasting time judging ourselves or running away from ourselves. We can learn to see ourselves as the bright, beautiful creative souls that we are, even if we do create being wretched along the way.
We can take our mistakes and embarrassing lessons and turn them into an opportunity to help ourselves and others. Like John Newton, we can progress from darkness into light. All we need is our spiritual awareness.
Regardless of what we create in our life process, we are forgiven by God. We need to learn to forgive ourselves and each other to help us experience the light available. We can learn to see and accept ourselves as creative spirit, learning and growing. In the present moment, we can release the past and receive the amazing grace that is available to us all.
By Mary Ellen Flora