not what my hands have done

In 1996 I was born to two people whom I’ve never known. And shortly after, I was abandoned in a park in Huazhou, China, left for my own. But the Lord out of His great mercy and compassion gave me parents who had hearts for the fatherless and who brought me up under the faithful teaching of the gospel. Growing up, I would on a regular basis, consistently win verse memorization contests and Bible drills. In Awana, I remember saying a prayer and walking an aisle, but quite frankly I didn’t really care. I was indifferent to the gospel and despised my knowledge of needing Christ and I thought I was okay. I loved sin.

But the Lord in His goodness, had our family move to Washington DC when I was in 6th grade. And after a series of questions, uncertainty, doubts, and friendships that began to fade, I quickly began spiraling down into depression, hurt, anger, and bitterness. It was also during that time that the Lord brought our family to Capitol Hill Baptist Church. Where ancient hymns were sung, and where the senior pastor would pronounce “Appalachian” strangely, and where his sermons lasted well over an hour. Our family always sat in the front row and the pastor would always look at me while he preached. So, deciding that I would not be the kid to fall asleep in the front row, I decided to take notes. It was through weeks and months of simple texts and hymns such as “Not What My Hands Have Done” and “Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy” that my heart and eyes were slowly opened…my awareness and understanding of my poor, desperate heart, weak and ruined by the fall heightened. I became aware of how I was destined for hell, and deserved His righteous wrath, and my great need for a great Savior…how I was lost and how it was by Christ’s coming and His death and His blood and His resurrection alone that could save my soul…and that it was by His love alone that this weight of sin could be lifted and that I could have peace within. It was then when I saw I needed to surrender and repent, take up my cross and follow Him, as Matthew 16:24 says. It was then when I saw that His grace and forgiveness was extravagant, abounding, and unswerving. His sending of His son to die on the cross for my sake overwhelmed me. 

I don’t remember exactly when I asked the Lord to forgive my soul and make me clean through Christ’s blood. But I’m grateful that it is through the merciful calling and the simple, childlike faith, that I am pardoned and redeemed…that now I can be called His— and that anyone can cry out and seek and knock, and the door shall be wide open. Who am I, that Christ would make me the object of His affection and love and grace and mercy that I don’t deserve at all, that He would look down on my hell bound race, dead in my sins and call me His own? Who am I that He would pluck me from the pit and love the orphan who had nothing to offer or give, and to say “your sins are forgiven”? 

I am a sinner, saved and forgiven by the blood of Christ and His death on the cross. And I don’t deserve it at all. I deserve His righteous wrath for all of eternity. But Jesus has been so gracious and kind and loving and merciful to me – my entire life. My soul is so wretched. But salvation has been generously extended to me not because of my own doing, because I was an object of wrath, dead in my sin – but because of Christ’s great love for me! —and now I am an heir, forgiven, accepted, made alive in Christ… I now have a Father who has called me, who loves me and who has kept me, as it says in Jude 1. 

Right now, the Lord is teaching me more and more about His grace and His sovereignty. I’m seeing more and more how his kindness is wonderfully woven in and how sweet it is to learn to trust in Jesus. I’m learning not to be anxious, but in all things, through prayer and thankfulness to present my requests to Him. And though my faithfulness is often sloppy and my love often falters, He is faithful. I am so grateful and glad that I can say He holds me fast, and that this work He began, He will complete, and that this has been nothing of my own doing. If salvation was up to me, I surely would not have chosen Christ; because I was lost; a poor and lost, ruined sinner, who thought I knew the way, one who had no hope. But by the grace of God He loved me first and called me to Himself and calls me His. 

The hymn, Not What My Hands Have Done says:

Not what my hands have done
Can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load.

Thy work alone, O Christ,
Can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God,
Can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God,
Not mine, O Lord to thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest
And set my spirit free.

Thy grace alone, O God,
To me can pardon speak;
Thy pow’r alone, O Son of God,
Can this sore bondage break.
No other work, save thine,
No other blood will do;
No strength, save that which is divine,
Can bear me safely through.
I praise the God of grace;
I trust his truth and might;
He calls me his, I call him mine,
My God, my joy, my light.
‘Tis he who saveth me,
And freely pardon gives;
I love because he loveth me,
I live because he lives.

I once was blind, but by the grace of God I now see. Hallelujah.

  1. Stephanie Tandhasetti Rawcliffe says:


    From Instagram to Facebook and now to your website, your words always touch my soul’s heart. I cannot wait to meet you (and hug you) in person at Flourish. My family came from the streets of China, during the bubonic plague and thereafter migrated to Thailand where my grandfather built our family’s fortune and treasures through his bare hands and brilliant mind. God moves us, literally, in such unspeakable ways yet you always have the most touching words to convey these moves. Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with the world.

    Xo. | Stephanie Rawcliffe

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