The rented jeep struggles against the high altitude and rough road as we approach Engineer pass. Tucked away in the San Juan mountains of Colorado is a jeep trail called the Alpine Loop. The loop follows old mining trails past ghost towns, abandoned mines, and wonderful vistas. Once at the top of the pass we stop to take in the scene. At this altitude, 12,800 feet, it’s like you are looking the surrounding mountains in the eye. Looking back towards Animas Forks we can pick out parts of the trail that brought us here. From this angle, parts of the road seem to cling precariously to the mountainside.
That experience happened many years ago during a Colorado vacation with our kids. That day trip bouncing along the Alpine Loop is one of our favorite memories. Looking back at life now I kind of feel like I did then. Amazed at the winding path, the hardship, the enjoyment, the beauty, the challenges of life, and God’s grace through it all. King David had a similar moment. “Then David the king went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far? This was a small thing in Your eyes, O God; but You have spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the standard of a man of high degree, O Lord God.” (1 Chronicles 17:16–17, NASB95)
It is good for us to look back in amazement and wonder. It is good to ask the same question David did – Who am I that you have brought me this far. It is necessary to look back and see the narrow road we traveled and how the hand of God sustained us. To see the difficult path our lives may have taken from a different perspective. To marvel at the precariousness of what we thought was solid ground. To see solidness of the times we felt abandoned and realize that God supported us through it all. To be awestruck by the grace of God that we have partaken in but not readily seen or acknowledged it at the time. To worship God because of His undeserved loving-kindness towards us.
Many years ago there was another pastor that contemplated those same verses in preparation for his sermon. Examining David’s question he pondered his own life. Many parts of his path were dark and treacherous. He also saw the wonderfulness of God in bringing him through those times in spite of himself. The pastor, of course, was John Newton. It was this passage in Chronicles and the reexamination of his own life that inspired his best-known hymn – Faith’s Review and Expectation. What we know as Amazing Grace. My encouragement to you is to read these verses from Newton’s pen (they may be a little different than you remember), take a moment to look back and ask David’s question – Who am I that you have brought me this far.
1 Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
2 ’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ’d!
3 Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
4 The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures:
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
5 Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.
6 The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be for ever mine.