Kemp Otto: A Chapter of My Story With Grace
A Chapter of My Story With Grace
For more than twenty years I relegated Grace to an academic concept, safely buried in commentaries that belonged and stayed on shelves.
You see, I already knew about Grace. And I knew that I was the one person for whom it didn’t extend quite far enough over the chasm. My best shot at Heaven was to get a running start, jump like an Olympian, and skid in to the standing room only section in back before the pearly gates were shut. In short, I knew that because I was more flawed than any other Christian in history it would be up to me. Sound Familiar?
The liar was always available to remind me of how abhorrent my sin was and that if anyone ever knew a fraction of what went through my head I’d be launched off the proverbial island at rocket speed. He reminded me that I was hopeless, that God merely tolerated me at best. And I agreed with him. Grace was apparently not an option for me. Silenced by shame, I told one.
Well there’s only so long we can “manage” sin on our own before it spirals out of control. Cutting to the chase, I could see that barring a major course correction, it was only a matter of time until I ran my ship into the ground at full speed, jeopardizing everything I loved – especially my family. I was terrified and took the “drastic” step of meeting with a counselor as quickly as possible. What did I have to lose? I remember walking into his office and blurting out four words: “Tell me there’s hope.”
I’d been getting together regularly with a handful of guys for over a year to talk & pray. But I hadn’t let them see inside. It was now or never. I remember that evening well. I remember feeling like I was pulling the pin on a grenade that would destroy the friendships dearest to me. I remember opening up, tossing my story into the room, and waiting for them to walk out. But they didn’t. Instead, they thanked me. They told me they loved me and felt honored that I would invite them into my darkness. This made no sense. Here I’d just vomited my sin all over their laps, and they were gathering around to lay hands on me. I was overwhelmed, undone. God wanted me to feel His touch, to experience both His Grace and Love in a visceral way. Receiving Grace requires that we dare to both Hope and Trust.
Seven years later, our group has changed. We’re not an accountability group. Life is about much more than what one has or hasn’t seen on the internet. We Walk Life Together. It’s 24 x 7. Each of us has encountered some pretty brutal stuff along the way. Sharing the journey so intimately has changed us. It’s when we’ve been the most vulnerable that we have so richly experienced the Grace and Love of God.
The four of us meet Wednesday evenings at 9 in one of our homes. We protect this time. We go away together for a weekend at least annually. We’re vigilant about Confidentiality. A five-word sequence best describes our model: Trust => Confession => Repentance => Freedom => Joy. None of this is instant, a one-time shot, or to be walked alone. We have shared tears in parking lots, celebrated the births of children, buried parents, painted houses, downed a lot of coffee & brownies, listened & counseled when marriages have been in trouble, prayed for each other’s children, called one another to confess sin, laughed our heads off together, been there in the ER at midnight, hurt each other, apologized, extended & received forgiveness, and shared our dreams.
These men are my brothers. Being known by and knowing them has fostered an environment in which we have learned to live in Grace. While not for the faint of heart, it brings Joy and frees us to be dangerous for the Kingdom.