Blog Stories

The Gift is Free, but not Cheap

This is Elissa’s story– a friend and junior at Texas A&M. I think you will appreciate her insight and her great thoughts regarding a gift she has received.

Grace. What a precious word. I grew up hearing about grace in multiple ways: in conversation, when describing beautiful sights, and regarding my friend, named “Grace.” I’m not going to lie; the word becomes quite weathered down here in the South. Undoubtedly it’s a popular word, with good reason.
Someone once told me that grace is, in simple terms, an unmerited, undeserved gift. This made a lot of sense; I knew from my life that I wasn’t perfect, so grace coming from God was a gift I was happy to receive. Jesus “paid for my sins,” right? Totally free – and for those students out there – who doesn’t like free stuff? I jumped for the offer.

And then … time elapsed. I don’t know about you, but oftentimes I get “cozy” with a word like grace. It becomes casual and familiar. Like an old song on a radio, we hear the word and tune out, change the station, or let our mind drift. “Oh – ‘grace’? Don’t worry God. I know what that is. No need to revisit that.”
I am thankful because, through my coming to Texas A&M, God opened my eyes to the meaning of grace anew. I love it when He does that. You see, when I applied to A&M I had no idea how I would be paying for it. God had a plan all along, though, and he answered my family’s prayers in a big way.

Shortly after being accepted to A&M, my family was notified of a newly started tuition assistance opportunity based on my dad’s military service. Because he had served in Iraq a number of years ago, as his child I was offered a chance to study without burdening my family with loans or bills.

What a blessing! I was overwhelmed. Why me? My parents were eager that I take the aid. My older siblings, who were already through their college years, also insisted I attend A&M. In so many ways, it seemed too good to be true. And it still is.

It was through this experience of pressing need and God’s provision that He demonstrated His love to me in a fresh, deeper way.

Grace. What a precious word.

There was nothing I did or could do to contribute to how my tuition would be paid for. It wasn’t like I could go back in time to Iraq and serve in the place of my dad. He had already paid that price. It’s already been done. Like how Jesus Christ lovingly came to earth as an insignificant human being and lived a life of love, then died for love on the cross to clean us from our hurt and rose again to life in victory over death: there’s no changing it. What’s done is done.

My only part to play in it all was to say “yes.”

When people ask questions about living with this freeing grace, the first problem is “well then, why be good?” I used to wrestle with this dilemma. That is, until I came to A&M on somebody else’s dime.

I remember back in 2004 when my dad was called from the Army Reserves to serve in Iraq. I remember wishing he was home, and how challenging that year was. He missed a lot of soccer games, dinners, and birthdays in our family. I especially remember the uncontainable joy I felt when running across the room to give him a hug – finally, he made it back home.

We didn’t fully know it at that time, but through the cost and pain of that year our family grew, learned, and gained a lot. Years later, the blessing of his service still affects me today.

So, when people ask me questions like, “why do you want to be a good student? Why even try to make good grades?” my response may seem like a funny thing. But in light of the gift I’ve received, it makes total sense. Just because a gift is free, it doesn’t mean it was cheap. I know I won’t be able to repay my dad for what he did. Neither can I repay Jesus Christ for his sacrifice by striving to be good.
Instead, I live with the gift in mind. It inspires thankfulness, humbleness, and love. So much has been done for each and every one of us. Honestly facing how big our gift is will change the way we live. The only part we play is opening up our lives to it.

Grace. What a precious word. God is always challenging me to dwell more richly on what it means. While simple, I’m learning that it’s indefinitely deep and marvelously free.

What does “grace” mean to you?

Howdy! My name is Elissa Chisum, and I am a junior studying Sociology here at Texas A&M. I love whistling tunes, giving out free smiles, and making coffee (as well as drinking lots of it)! Greatest of all, I love my Dad up in heaven and the people around me. I am blessed to be here on this earth, and choose to give my days to Him.