Grace is powerful. It is something God freely extends because He loves us, not because we deserve it. God’s grace manifests itself through the gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice, and grace can also be experienced when God provides all that we need to get through a difficult time or overcome a temptation to do something that is harmful to us and others. This is why one of grace's components can be described as “undeserved assistance.”
Even though Dylan Wilcox had a tumultuous childhood, he would be the first to tell you that he has been a recipient of God’s grace from the very beginning. After his parents split up, he lived with his mom and step-dad who allowed addictions to control their lives. The environment was chaotic and unstable. The oldest of three siblings, at times Dylan was thrust into a role of protecting his brother and sister and confronting his mom and step-dad about their behavior, risking his own well-being in the process.
But even in the midst of these painful years, Dylan began to see God’s hand on his life. During one particularly traumatizing event, a couple “happened” upon he and his siblings and took the time to reunite them with their mom. In the middle of his fear, Dylan saw this couple as God’s provision to care for him.
Dylan is grateful that despite all the dysfunction in her own life at the time, his mom saw to it that he went to church and youth group. It was there that youth pastors and others invested in him and taught him about God’s love.
During middle school and high school, Dylan was receptive to God’s grace and mercy, but he also participated in some destructive behaviors. He says, “I was following Jesus, but I still didn’t want to give up my addictions, my learned behaviors, and the things I thought I wanted." But God kept working on Dylan's heart and never gave up on him.
After graduating from high school, Dylan’s choices caught up with him, and he was arrested. This shook him up, but the judge had mercy on him. Dylan knew that God was also extending His grace and mercy to him, but it wasn’t long before he was participating in more negative behavior.
One night, a police officer pulled Dylan over. Familiar with Dylan’s history, the officer took him aside and talked to him for about ten minutes. The officer listed the things Dylan continued to be involved with and how he had not received what he deserved time and again. He declared, “Next time, I will make sure you go to jail. So, what are you going to do about it?” The officer exposed the grace and mercy that been extended to him for years, and it brought Dylan to uncontrolled tears. He was rocked to the core. Dylan says, "God spoke through the officer directly to my heart - not just about mercy and grace, but justice for my sins against God! I was broken."
It hit Dylan, that his persistence to continue on this path was like slapping God’s grace in the face, and he resolved to relinquish the things he had been holding onto – cold turkey! Instead, he began to spend time reading the Bible as soon as he woke up every morning and before he went to bed every night.
A year after Dylan chose this u-turn on the road he had been traveling, he met his wife, Jenee. Jenee and Dylan now have two teen-age daughters, Cameron and Taylor. Dylan would say that it was by God's redemptive grace and a large dose of Focus on the Family (a ministry for families), that he, along side his amazing wife, have been able to provide a home for their own daughters that was missing the fear and terror of his early childhood.
God's grace is multi-layered. The very family members who hurt Dylan have been an integral part of his healing process. They have prayed for him, and they have all forgiven each other. In fact, the step-father who hurt him so much when he was young, called last year to ask for Dylan’s forgiveness. Dylan was able to say, “I forgave you decades ago!”
Part of God’s amazing, undeserved favor can be seen in His redemption of these kinds old wounds. Dylan says that wounds can “fester and become infected” if not dealt with, but offering forgiveness to others is also a natural outflow of the heart when one is grateful for all they themselves have been forgiven for.
Dylan has also responded to God’s goodness to him by giving back. For years now, Dylan has served with Student Ministries at Ventura Missionary. He has facilitated many groups of middle school and high school guys, investing in their lives as was done for him, and pointing students toward God’s goodness and love for them.
Dylan continues to be challenged and grow in his faith. During this COVID season, Dylan has chosen a posture of trust. He says, “I just have to trust that God’s got this!” He says that if God changes the Wilcox’s current means of support or any other area of their lives, He’ll have something else. Dylan says that he’s learned to “thank God regularly, even when things seem bad.”
Dylan isn’t bitter about those early years. He says that the pain helped him to form his faith. He believes God allowed enough pain in his life to help him to submit to God's better will. He says, “Pain has a purpose. After all, the greatest gift we ever received was because of the extravagant pain that Christ suffered on our behalf!"