Walking tall and straight, she had a commanding effect when she entered a room. Even after strokes, sickness and the loss of language, Frances sat erect in her wheelchair and her presence demanded attention. Frances wasn’t a woman who entertained fools. Frances spoke through the experience of years in prayer and studying God’s word. Often, her words were stern and sharp, reaching into the souls of men and women and pulling out the most heart wrenching hurts. Then she would pray for healing and release. And God answered her pleas for mercy and grace again and again.
Roman 11 speaks of the kindness and sterness of God. Our Lord is unbelievably kind to those who follow him. Yet, unrelentlessly stern to women and men who refuse to trust and release themselves into his saving grace. It is a part of God’s nature from which even his most faithful worshipers turn away because of humanity’s lack of understanding into the nature of our Father.
However, Paul tells us that it is God’s sternness that allows us to see your own inability to handle even the most simple details of life. It is the Father’s unrelenting pressure pushing us away from Him into greater depth of sin–wrapped in our rebellion–which drives us to His loving forgiveness and grace.
As Frances’ daughter I was often the target of her sterness and the object of her love. In pondering Roman 11, I’ve yearned for the Lord to teach me the truth of his character revealed in these startling verses. He drew my thoughts back to my own mother, Frances. She was never the tender and compassionate matriarch. Frances was the teacher and leader who gave firm directions with her eyes, her actions and her words. However, there was never a doubt regarding her love for us.
Frances’ selfless love often extendied past her family into a lost and dying world. While her words and actions seemed stern to those closest to Frances, we never doubted her heart was kind, forgiving and merciful. This is the picture of our loving Father revealed by Paul in Romans 11.
32 God has given all people over to their stubborn ways so that he can show mercy to all.
33 Yes, God’s riches are very great, and his wisdom and knowledge have no end! No one can explain the things God decides or understand his ways. 34 As the Scripture says,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been able to give him advice?” — Isaiah 40:13
35 “No one has ever given God anything
that he must pay back.” — Job 41:11
36 Yes, God made all things, and everything continues through him and for him. To him be the glory forever! Amen.