God has a plan. Angels have a mission...
I will always remember sitting at the far end of a vast Kroger parking lot, an intentional choice designed to protect everyone else from the already made decision I was about to act upon. I was a miracle child, a now young adult who had survived far past the three days predicted by doctors due to spina bifida and a myriad of other health concerns.
I didn't feel like a miracle child.
I felt like a burden. I felt like a wasted life. It wasn't my disability that bothered me or the 50+ surgeries that had pretty much defined my daily life. Instead, it was the years of childhood abuse that had taken its toll. It was the very recent suicide of my wife and the subsequent death of our newborn daughter beside her that had battered my heart and my mind so thoroughly that I had lost all sense of hope. Within the previous year, I'd lost my wife, my child, both of my lower legs, and eventually I lost everything financially including my home.
I screamed out for God to give me a sign if I was meant to be, but I wasn't hearing anything.
Most likely, I wasn't listening.
On this day, I sat in my small two-door couple and tried desperately to give myself to the darkness. I dowsed myself and my car in gasoline. I climbed into the back seat of my car, no easy task for a paraplegic and double amputee. This way, I knew I couldn't back out.
I pulled out a lighter and put the burning flame into the gas.
Seriously. Nothing. There was no explosion. There was no fire. There wasn't even a spark.
To say that I was hysterical would be an understatement.
I looked up and saw Leslie, a college friend who'd sense become an editor at a local newspaper. How did she know to come up to this car? Why did she continue when it smelled like gasoline? What made her stop? What made her then offer me a writing gig at her newspaper when I was sitting there dowsed in gas?
Angels are everywhere.
This is something I believe with every fiber of my being. I've experienced it time and time and time again and not just in remarkably dramatic or traumatic circumstances. It wasn't long after this failed suicide attempt that my life began to turn upward, a return to my life of faith seemingly inevitable after this inexplicable rescue. I wasn't your usual church-goer, or at least I didn't feel like it. I had purple hair, a few earrings, and emotional walls that made me an unlikely candidate for surrendering my life to anyone or anything. It was an unexpected experience at the Arlington Theatre in Indianapolis that changed my path as I sat in the audience while the Christian punk rock band The Altar Boys played music I could relate to using words I couldn't.
But, I listened. And I grew. And I surrendered.
It would be a few years later that I would, somewhat ironically, find myself with a college degree and a job working in suicide intervention. My own suicidal tendencies were long gone and have never come back. My purple hair and earrings, while accepted by a God with astounding tolerance for weirdness, were also long gone in favor of a more professional look and much better self-care.
Eventually, I would study ministry. I would become ordained. I would attend seminary to grow in knowledge. I would become licensed by a denomination. During my licensing ceremony, some expected me to revert to my punk rock roots for my official licensing song but, instead, I requested a friend sing Wynonna Judd's "Testify to Love," a song from one of my favorite shows Touched by an Angel and a song that represented everything I wanted my ministry to say.
I bet you didn't expect to get a testimony during a television review.
What can I say? I pray. I write. I repeat.
The new Pure Flix original series Saved by Grace will, without a doubt, have those of you who remember Touched by an Angel reflecting upon the iconic nine-season series as there are similarities in both narrative structure and basic character development. While there are basic similarities, rest assured that Saved by Grace is an original series all its own. Set for a five-episode first season on Pure Flix, Saved by Grace leans much more intentionally into its faith and is best described as even more unabashedly sentimental in its storytelling. This doesn't mean, surprisingly, that happy endings are around every corner but that there's never any doubt that God is present in all things.
The series centers around two angels, Grace (Jennifer Taylor) and Jeremiah (Cameron Arnett), who appear both appear as humans only to those for whom they are meant to intervene and who always eagerly identify themselves as angels when asked (with more than a little disbelief often greeting them). The first season tells five different stories found often within life with the second episode being my own personal favorite for a myriad of reasons.
In the first episode, Jack (Ryan Francis) has lost his job and abandoned his family. Reaching a point of desperation, he seeks seemingly impossible answers and is rather gobsmacked with the answers he receives. In this first episode, it becomes apparent that Saved by Grace is willing to tackle real-life issues honestly and with an undeniable eye toward Jesus.
The second episode, again my favorite in this first season, finds Lily (Veronica Kelly) and her father in deep conflict as her mother has been near fatally injured in a car accident. Kelly's performance here is transparent and devastating and sets such an emotionally resonant tone that I still shudder thinking about it. This episode also shines more of a light on Cameron Arnett's Jeremiah. While Grace's name may be in the series title, Jeremiah is an absolutely essential player and Arnett really shines here.
In episode three, Sarah (Melissa Archer) is a bookstore owner on the verge of losing her business. Steve (Richard Blake) is a single parent who crosses Sarah's path, an unexpected and pleasant surprise that will have unexpected complications. This episode gently and lovingly tackles parenting issues, financial concerns, and the importance of communication. Likely the most easygoing of all five episodes, it was in this one that I began to notice that Saved by Grace was for the most part devoid of "stars" and using folks who look like you and I.
Episode four is, perhaps, the darkest and most challenging episode and perhaps best left undescribed. Set in a dark world, this episode tackles abuse, shame, debt, forgiveness, and so much more. While Saved by Grace is a family friendly series, this particular episode may be the one that involves the most necessity to set a parental boundary or to have discussions. While it's far from graphic or inappropriate, it's honest and that's important. It's also beautifully handled.
Finally, this initial season ends with Mollie (Isabelle Almoyan) and Connor (Jadon Cal), two young people on a positive path toward success who end up facing a difficult choice with lots of conflict and friction around them from parents and friends.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful anchoring performances by Jennifer Taylor, as Grace, and Cameron Arnett as Jeremiah. Taylor offers a warm, welcoming presence that displays compassion without ever resorting to maudlin sentimentality. Arnett's presence is calm, steady, and possessing of a wisdom. The two together are an absolute delight.
Saved by Grace is a poignant, heartfelt reminder that there are angels amongst us sent by God to intercede on behalf of prayers spoken and unspoken. Every encounter, indeed, presents a new opportunity for us to choose our approach to life and to return to a God always willing and wanting to welcome us back with open arms. With honesty, relatability, and complete faith Saved by Grace invites us to surrender ourselves to those transformative moments, big and small, that can powerfully impact our lives and the lives of those around us.
Saved by Grace premiered on Pure Flix on November 6th, 2022 with the first two episodes and the final three episodes will be released on each consecutive Sunday.
Watch Saved by Grace exclusively on Pure Flix!
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic