I try to mix up the musical styles for the iPod Devotional but occasionally genres repeat. This week I was a bit surprised to have another almost forgotten country tune buried deep in my playlist stir my thoughts. A song by George Strait cycled up during the morning walk and I nearly skipped past it. But I decided to listen to “Where Have I Been All My Life” and the lyrics first amused and then challenged me. The writer sings about how he has matured over the years.

Been down the road to work and back
Been in what I thought was love a few times
Every once in a while I stop and ask
Where have I been all my life?

These days broccoli don't taste so bad
And neither does swallowing my pride
And I'm agreeing more and more with my old man
Where have I been all my life?

The lyrical bridge is a lighthearted way to ask a question that bugs me often. “What took me so dadgum long to figure out some of this stuff?”

I remember my grace epiphany weekend. I finally grasped that grace is not just for justification and glorification but definitely for sanctification as well. I remember swallowing my pride and confessing that I cannot live this faith journey in my own strength. I remember the clarity of understanding that I need Jesus fully to be saved, fully to get to heaven and fully to live this out daily. Why had I tried to add my own abilities to help Jesus make me holy? What took me so long to figure that out? Where have I been all my life?

I left the conference that weekend simultaneously joyful and angry. Joyful that I was released to freedom and joy in Christ.  Angry that I had lived so long trying to live for God in my own strength. I shared that with my wife expecting some hugs and encouragement. What I got was that mixture of truth and love that makes a good relationship so special.

Me: “Why did it take me so long to get grace”.

(Pause for sympathy)

Her: “You weren’t ready yet.”

Ouch. And so true. God could not move in my heart until I was broken, humbled, ready and eager to follow Him no matter what. Her wise response short circuited one of Satan’s most effective tools. Regret.

If I had lost the joy of my grace discovery by regretting that I had “wasted” thirty years not getting it then the Enemy wins. Satan loves to have us live in regret of the past or fear of the future. Either of those will cause us to miss the freedom, joy and grace of the moment. So I accepted that God’s timing to welcome me to the room of grace was perfect. I had to reach that point of quiet desperation to be ready to hear and receive. The song continues with another great observation about maturing in faith.

Been learning that forgiveness is as much for myself
As it is for the other guy
And I read the good book these days and believin'
Where have I been all my life?

I love that observation about forgiveness. I would go a step further and say that forgiveness is more for yourself than the other guy.

I totally get this last stanza. I had the same experience just recently.

I heard 'What A Wonderful World' by Louis Armstrong
It brought a tear to my eyes
After all these years I finally get that song
Where have I been all my life?

I finally get that song as well. I finally get grace and my new identity in Christ. I finally get no condemnation in Christ. I finally get that others need grace as desperately as I did (and do). So where have I been all my life? I was being patiently loved by my Heavenly Father. I was being gently corrected and wisely instructed by His Word. I was being both inspired and wounded by the community of believers. And I understand now that I was always being sovereignly directed toward my rendezvous with the message of grace.

Paul talked about how it was and is all Jesus when it comes to salvation and righteousness.

But—“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” This is a trustworthy saying, and I want you to insist on these teachings so that all who trust in God will devote themselves to doing good. (Titus 3, NLT)

Do I wish I had figured it out sooner? Of course. But for whatever reason I was not ready to give up myself, my pride, and my abilities in order to surrender to Christ. An old Chinese proverb observes that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is today. Don’t regret the past. It is forgiven. Don’t fear the future. It is in God’s Hands. If you, like me, took a while to figure out the joy and freedom of grace let me assure you that today most certainly is the next best time to plant that truth in your heart.