If you saw that headline and thought “Oh my, Tim’s pregnant? How wonderful!”, I invite you to take another look at my picture above. Hollywood movies notwithstanding, I’ve got the wrong equipment to be in the delicate condition.
Pregnant with Grace
I’ve been thinking about pregnancy and the grace of God over the last couple of days. You know how some people say there’s no such thing as being a little bit pregnant, you either are or you aren’t? I thought about that in relation to God’s grace, and how it’s with his people always.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9.)
God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5.)
A lot of us read those passages along with Psalm 23 – Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me – and it sounds great. But then we hit hard times, really hard times, and we are much more likely to move back one chapter to Psalm 22 – My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
Career in the Valley
I’ve hit some of those valleys in my career life. Now some people look at my job and wonder how it could be so bad. After all, a judge is at the top of the legal field and every one has to do what the judge says, don’t they? Top dog among the legal beagle crowd, right?
You’d be surprised.
In my state, being a trial judge is an elected position and anyone with 10 years as a licensed attorney can run for judicial office. But that’s not how most people become a judge. Openings come up most frequently when a judge retires before the next election, and then the Governor appoints someone to serve the rest of the unexpired term. That’s how I got on the bench, as a matter of fact. It’s quite a process, with plenty of uncertainty along the way. I remember a friend of mine reassuring me when I was agonizing over my application, “If our heavenly Father wants you to get the job, you’ll get it.” And sure enough, 2 1/2 years after putting in that application and supporting it with bushels of letters of recommendations and interviews with big wigs and more scrutiny than I thought I would ever face, I got it.
Still, as I said, this is an elected office so I was soon wondering if someone was going to file to run against me. It’s relatively rare for someone to challenge a sitting judge, even a brand new appointee like I was. In fact, of the four hundred or so judges up for election in a given election year, usually fewer than a dozen are challenged at the ballot box.
When I was first appointed, the next election cycle came just a few months after I was sworn in and sure enough I heard that a couple of attorneys were talking about putting in their papers with the elections office. This unnerved me a bit, and I went home that evening and told my wife about it.
“What are you concerned about?” she asked.
“What if one of them goes through with it and runs against me? I might lose.”
“I don’t think God put you in this job just so he can take you out of it right away,” she said. “But what if he did? What are you going to do about it?”
I stopped worrying. And no one ran against me, so I was able to serve a full six-year term.
My second election cycle came along, and again no one ran against me. Six more years.
Then my third election cycle arrived. And someone filed to run against me. Someone wanted my job. Someone wanted my job badly enough that he wanted to take it away from me and have it for himself.
I, on the other hand, wanted to keep it.
Unless you’ve been in this situation, it’s difficult to understand how hard this is, how deeply the attack on one’s character and career and very person goes when someone essentially stands up and tells all who will listen that you are not fit for your job. Because that was this guy’s platform. Some might think it an over-reaction – but it is certainly not an exaggeration – to say that I found myself in that dark valley, wondering why God was letting this happen to me.
Soon after the campaign season opened, I came down with a bug. I couldn’t shake it either, and realized I needed to see my doctor. He looked at my throat and sinuses, took my pulse and temperature, then got out the stethoscope. Nothing to speak of when he listened to my chest.
Then he set it on my back and told me to breathe deeply. “Hmmm.” Then he had me breathe some more. “Hmmm. Pneumonia.”
I was off work for three weeks, never having felt so tired in my life. And I was supposed to be campaigning too. I didn’t attend a single campaign event for a month.
God, on the other hand, was running a campaign in my spiritual life. He forced me to understand my need to rely on him for my health, my career, my family obligations. And he provided for me in so many ways.
- My son had graduated High School a semester early and was freed up during the day to cover a lot of the running around and errands I normally handled. He even made an extra stop at Jamba Juice for me whenever I needed a smoothie.
- A friend very involved in local politics made a key campaign appearance for me, and probably did a better job representing me than I could have done myself.
- One of my colleagues on the bench was extremely influential among community leaders and burned up telephone lines and email lists to gather endorsements and support for me.
- Most of all, my wife prayed over me every day. Every. single. day.
And there was so much more.
Constant and Great Grace
I learned that God’s grace is not more in the good times and less in the hard times, nor is it more in the hard times and less in the good times. Instead, I’d say that I’ve seen it differently in the different times of my life.
But our God is always pregnant with grace.