“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” 1 Corinthians 15:10
I love the tension of this verse. To me, it shows that Paul wrestles with how God’s grace is the sole reason for his substance.
I’m by no means an authority in the world of theology. I’m sure there will be some who peruse this column who are. I guess it would be appropriate in this context to ask for grace as I’m sure I could be handling this text clumsily.
The centuries’ old split between faith and works doesn’t even really phase Paul as he simply breezes over the paradox in order to finish his point. He knows it is only God’s grace that has given him his apostolic call under Christ, but he also knows that he has worked tirelessly and poured out blood, sweat and tears to make sure that his high call as an apostle to the Gentiles is fully realized.
I’ve heard some argue that Christianity was nothing more than a sect of Judaism until Paul’s letters began circulating around the northeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea. It was Paul who helped nurture the faith into a major religion.
Paul is not shy about it: “I worked harder than any of them.” He knew that he did not take God’s grace in vain and that he has fully capitalized upon it. He closed the verse with dissonance: “Though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” He essentially leaves his readers with a mush-up of ideas: Grace, hard work--but really, it was grace all along.Providence will have its way--but it always seems like providence is most attracted to those who will put the work in--grace, yes, but hard work, too--but really grace. I don’t think the Bible is kind to those who wish for straightforward answers--though there are clear moments on the most important topics, no doubt. Jesus doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who was prone to give a desirable answer either.
My point in bringing all of this up is because I want to say how truly humbling it is to be able to step into the position of the general manager here at the paper (not to suggest that I’m doing anything remotely as impressive as the apostle.) But like Paul, I know I’ve given this my all, but I also know all I could give isn’t sufficient to deserve the role I’ll be working in and the platform I’ve been trusted with in this community. I’ve never loved a job so much--and now I’ll be able to help steer this paper in ways other than my written content.
It’s been an exciting month for me. On the heels of being announced as the new general manager at the paper, I was also honored with the first place spot for Best Feature Story in the 2021 Alabama Media Contest for my article “Pick’n and grin’n on Christmas nights,” which featured the music background of Estes Jackson of Hamilton and his family. I’m so honored to get the award and so thankful that I was able to memorialize some local history and a wholesome family story.
I interviewed Estes and his son, David Jackson, with the intention of getting a story about Estes recently being featured in a music magazine edition. I didn’t realize how special of a story that I would be leaving with. A special thank you to the Jackson family for welcoming me into their home.
I never thought I would be writing for a living. I never enjoyed it while growing up and still really haven’t come to enjoy writing fictional or personal pieces (such as the one you are reading).
Honestly, I’ve always thought of myself as a better thinker than a writer. But writing seems like the inevitable next step to thought.
A high school English teacher assigned me a special project during my sophomore year which allowed me to get out of most of my homework. The deal was that I would write a book during the school year. I kept up with it for a few months and then pulled out. I told her I couldn’t do it. As a consequence, she made my final assignment an essay on why lying was wrong. Her point was that I was lying to myself--she was right. I’m not sure if that lesson clicked at the time, but maybe something changed deep down. Often, personal change and impact are too subtle to notice--even for yourself.
I started really excelling in writing in college as a philosophy major. Those courses forced me to structure my thinking and learn how to communicate my thoughts. Having to argue my beliefs gave me a deep appreciation for writing and I improved a lot in those years.
My personal career took a detour while I was volunteering in ministry during 2013-2017. The hours required to be a volunteer meant I needed a flexible work schedule, and that meant I would be working at Burger King here in Hamilton. I still run into some of the same people I used to serve out of the drive-thru and I’ve even interviewed some. I’m always curious if they realize that was me.
It wasn’t a glorious job, but I was committed to it. I’d like to think I made the store better. It’s been remodeled since then, so I don’t even really think of it as being the same place. I only prayed once in those four years that God would give me a new job and that was the night before I got a text from Kalyn Moore (who is now the Marion County Commission administrator) asking if I would like to apply at the newspaper. I had not told her or anyone that I was looking for something else.
I went from flipping burgers to writing papers with a single text. It is these kinds of God moments that make me realize that, yes, our God-given assignment on this earth will require more of us than we would ever wanted to give, but more so, it will require more grace than we have ever dreamed.
I feel like I’m only in the early chapters of God’s role in my life (hopefully). I’m fully aware I’ve got a lot to learn and a lot of work to do. But I won’t be forgetting the grace I’ll need to get there.
See complete story in the Journal Record.