I Can Have Confidence That I Live by Grace Alone

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Last month The Banner published a piece called Why My Reformed Identity Matters, a collection of ten stories from members around the CRC about how our Reformed identity defines us, our ministries, and our lives. 

Two of our chaplains, Sarah Hoogendoorn and Dirk van der Vorst, wrote pieces that were featured. Below is Sarah's story. 

Sarah Hoogendoorn has never been a member of the armed services. She’s never struggled with addiction or substance abuse. Yet her Reformed faith helps her empathize with those who have.

Hoogendoorn is completing her second year of Clinical Pastoral Education at The VA Medical Center in St. Cloud, Minn. As a Christian Reformed church chaplain, she has many hard conversations with veterans who have lived the traumas of war and, as a result, struggle with both substance abuse disorder and mental health issues.

In her one-on-one conversations with these veterans, Hoogendoorn hears a common theme. 

“I am not worth it.”

“I don’t deserve God’s love ... his forgiveness ... to be whole.”

In those moments, Hoogendoorn is grateful for God’s saving grace that is emphasized in her Reformed faith. And she knows that grace connects her to those she is talking to.

“This grace is extended not only to the drug addicts and the alcoholics, or to those who have relapsed four, five, six times, but also to me,” said Hoogendoorn. “Perhaps I’m not sailing on the same boat of brokenness, but I’m certainly sailing on the same sea.”

Hoogendoorn said she often uses a lyric from the band Mumford and Sons to explain this.

“It seems that all my bridges have been burned, but you say ‘That’s exactly how this grace thing works,’” she quoted. “It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart, but the welcome I receive with the restart.” 

“If I am truly honest, in my own brokenness I’ve also burned all my bridges and I’ve also had to walk the long road home,” Hoogendoorn added. “It is only by God’s grace —  higher and deeper and wider than I could ever hope or image — that I am welcomed to start again.”

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