Church Planting among the Nahuatl

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Grasping Grace

A couple months ago I wrote in our newsletter about a woman named Agustina.

Agustina is a single mom of three. Her husband was killed in a shootout three summers ago. She gave birth to his son a few months later. And a few months later, her mother left to work on the coast. She lives alone in an adobe house across the creek from our home.


Agustina is sharp. She’s quick to laugh and to smile. She sometimes has a short fuse. She works hard.

She’s also the first Nahuatl to trust in Christ.

A year ago, she was talking to Liesl on the couch while I walked through an Old Testament lesson with a man at our kitchen table. Agustina overheard us, and began listening so intently to what I was saying that she couldn’t continue her conversation with Liesl.

As she left that night, she said to Liesl, “What Pete was teaching, I want to learn that, too.”

So she did. Over the past few months, our coworkers Rachel and Katie took Agustina through the entire chronological teaching. Agustina had read the whole Bible before. Now she said it made sense.

But as we talked with her, it seemed clear that after a life lived in folk religion and its constant attempts to earn the favor of the spirits and patrones, that the concept of grace – the fact that there was nothing she could do, good or bad, to earn God’s favor or separate herself from Him – was a hard one for her to grasp.

I wrote about that in our newsletter, asking our friends to pray for Agustina that she would more deeply understand the meaning of grace.

Months later, I received a note from an old friend whom I very much respect, saying that she was praying for Agustina – but also, that she recognized Agustina’s struggle to understand the depths of grace within herself.

I was inspired by this honesty, and then convicted.

Grace is the greatest enigma the world has seen. It defies the world’s system of give and take and you-get-what-you-deserve. Grace is undeserved and delivers the undeserving. Grace is love, hope, newness, relief, rebirth, the imperfect made perfect and accepted by a perfect God.

And while I can say that, and claim that I understand it on a cerebral level, sometimes, in the ups and downs of daily life, I struggle to live as an object of grace. I try to earn what can’t be earned. I try to deserve what is undeserved. I try to obtain more of what I have in limitless quantity. I marvel that I do not lose what cannot be lost.

Grace reveals my lack of understanding, but that doesn’t mean I don’t understand it at all. I know the feeling of rain on my skin without understanding the formation of the clouds, and in this dry season, I am grateful for it. I can feel the power of my truck as it climbs these mountains without knowing the individual working of each piston, valve, seal and gasket, and I am grateful for its work when I arrive at home.

Even though I don’t fully know Him, I know the peace, the hope, the joy of receiving God’s grace.

His grace only makes me want to know Him more.

And the more I understand of grace, the more I am convinced that over the course of my life, I will never fully understand it, but will see grace in new lights, live it in new experiences, find it where I didn’t know to look for it. In so doing, I will find the unascertainable depths of grace always sufficient, always life-giving, always hope-filled, yet never fully grasped.

In that way, my prayer for Agustina is just as much a prayer for myself – that I would daily more deeply grasp grace, live grace, and know the God who gives grace freely to all who accept it.