(continued…) “If you don’t straighten out, Jimmy, God will deal with you,” Grandma Klobuchar would always say. Many years later, after grandma was long dead and ‘Little Jimmy’ had become ‘Famous Jim Klobuchar,’ he still had a lot of straightening out to do. In one area of his life, he was a successful columnist and community leader, and, he was having the time of his life. But in another area of his life, Klobuchar was an alcoholic in a dangerous downward spin. His drinking had ruined two marriages and alienated his children, it was destroying his health, and it became for him a public embarrassment when he was arrested for driving drunk and appeared on the front page of the newspaper that employed him.
In Pursued by Grace Klobuchar describes the morning he hit bottom. He woke up in the chair he had passed out in and he began to remember the many things he had to be ashamed of from the night before. Too much drinking, as always. Then going home, for a while, with a woman he picked up. Then to another bar for more drinking. Then another woman. Then driving home very drunk. Then losing his keys somewhere between the garage and his apartment. Then stumbling around in the hall as he tried to open his door with a credit card, and then with slurring words trying to convince a passerby that this was his own apartment and he wasn’t a thief.
With his head pounding, Klobuchar remembered the column he wrote that would appear in the Sunday paper that morning. It would tell about an incredible man who would not give up. The man had many disabilities, but he wanted to be independent and pay his own way. And, with hard work and determination, he was making it happen. Life had dealt him a poor hand, but he was making the best of it, working hard at the only job he could get, being frugal with the little money he made, and not asking anyone for anything. That morning his story would be an inspiration to thousands. And there Klobuchar sat, hung over and ashamed. He had been given every opportunity and blessing, yet he had made a mess of his life and relationships. He began to recall the many people he had hurt and disappointed, especially the family he had so often ignored. He then made an apology. He didn’t even know who he was speaking to, but with tears in his eyes, he said, “I am so sorry.” And then he said, “God, I don’t know where to go, but I need help.” Klobuchar decided to go to church. Still not feeling very well, he got into his car, but then realized he had no idea where he should go. He remembered a pastor who had recently invited him to his church, Edina Lutheran, and so that is where he went. And there he heard the rest of the Bible’s story of how God deals with us. The sermon was on God’s forgiveness. Of course he had heard of that before, but until now he had never really listened. This morning he did, and it became for him the beginning of his recovery– the recovery of his sobriety, his health, his family, and his faith.
“If you don’t straighten out, God will deal with you,” his grandma had always said, and he never wanted to hear it. But what did that mean for him now? Was it God that ruined his family, embarrassed him publicly, ruined his health, and made him hit rock bottom? Was that how God was dealing with him? No, Klobuchar realized, that was what he was doing to himself. So what was God doing? Klobuchar slowly began to see God was dealing with him as he had been dealing with him throughout his life– by gently and persistently pursuing him with his grace. Pursued by Grace was what he called his book, and looking back, he saw that God had always been there, trying to get in, looking for a response that was so long in coming, always staying close, always giving gentle reminders, always being available.
“I am so sorry,” Jim Klobuchar said on that rock bottom morning, but he did not yet know to whom he was speaking. Later, he realized it is God to whom we must make such a confession. Only to God can we confess all our sins, only before God can we lay down the regrets and sins of an entire lifetime all at once. And then, unlike the one-sided image of God he had received from his grandmother, Klobuchar began to know the God who spoken through Jeremiah, saying “I will forgive your wickedness and remember your sin no more;” the God who came here in person to tell us, “This is the new covenant in my blood, shed for the forgiveness of your sins.”
This God was still pursuing him, as he pursues each one of us, with his grace and his promises.
We must not, like Little Jimmy, ignore God’s warnings about his coming judgment upon our sins, but neither should we, like grandma Klobuchar, dwell only on that. That is only one part of the message, and the purpose of that part is to drive us on to the other part, the part about God pursuing us with his grace. The love of God is in both parts. By command or by promise, by threat or by grace, by judgment or by forgiveness, by whatever way God chooses to deal with us, the amazing thing is that God bothers with us at all. The Psalmist did not take this for granted, but marveled at it, saying, “When I consider the heavens, and all the works of your hands, the sun and the moon which you have set in their place, what is man that you are mindful of him?” Who am I, who are you, that God even gives us a thought? We wonder why this or that bad thing might happen, but we might just as well wonder why God should even care at all. But God does care, and by whatever means possible, he pursues us with his grace, waiting for, looking for, our response. ‘What is little man,’ the Psalmist asks, ‘that thou art mindful of him?’ But God is mindful of us, and we must not ignore such incredible attention and such an amazing grace.
Psalm 8:3-4 — When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 46:10 — Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.
Isaiah 45:22 — Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.
Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people, pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —Book of Common Prayer