Ann Farabee column: Grace is amazing

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 6, 2020

By Ann Farabee

His name was John.

His mother died when he was seven. Spiritual training stopped.

His father was very strict. They had no real relationship.

He had to stop going to school, so he could work with his father — at sea. When he was 19, his father felt he needed more discipline, and forced him into the Royal Navy, which thrived on severe discipline. He tried to escape, was found, was chained in irons — and received 96 lashes. He was a slave and a slave trader. It was a low point in his life where he described himself as a wretched-looking man.

Then came the night that changed everything.

A tumultuous storm arose at sea. The ship had begun to sink. He fearfully watched as someone was swept overboard. As he held on tightly, he began to remember Bible verses about grace — that he had learned from his mother.

He prayed for the first time in years.

The storm weakened.

The ship steadied.

He referred to it as the hour he first believed.

That hour he first believed, some words began to form in his mind — the words to a song he would write — Amazing Grace.

Can you envision those words being poured into his spirit that night? How he must have kept repeating them over and over in his mind? He surely felt strong emotion over the power in the words. For they were his story — a story of grace.

The first part of John’s life story was filled with dangers, toils and snares. The last part of his story was about grace that would lead him home. Even though he dealt with blindness in his later years, he turned his life upside down for Christ, as he became a loving husband, adoptive father, minister, abolitionist, published author and a song writer.

He never could have imagined that 250 years later those words would also be sung as our story of grace, reminding us of who God is — and who we are — through Christ.

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost — but now am found

Was blind but now I see.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear

And grace my fears relieved

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares

I have already come.

Tis grace that brought me safe thus far

And grace will lead me home.

Mr. John Newton, thank you for writing these words.

God sure did use a ‘wretch’ like you.

Amazing grace.

The sound of it is so sweet.

Can you hear it?

Ann Farabee is a teacher, writer and speaker. Contact her at or

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