There was this lady whom my family knew fairly well when I was a kid. She was miserable at that point in her life and that made her kind of miserable to be around. She was mistreated by the people in her life at the time and truly was having a hard time finding joy or being who she was meant to be. Years later she is in a totally different place and obviously so much more happy. It takes grace to realize that someone's behavior or attitude or comments might just be a reflection of their life at that particular moment in time. Maybe it's not really THEM as a person. A comment that comes off as judgmental might be a lot less about you and a lot more about how they feel about themselves or their circumstances.
There was this weird thing with one of my best friends growing up, and still a dear friend, where we'd sort of distance ourselves from each other as we faced certain challenges, only to open up and be truthful and realize we were facing the exact same challenges at the exact same time. We felt isolated and alone because we were afraid to be real and vulnerable, I think ultimately we didn't expect to find grace. But we did and facing our challenges together was so much easier!
I think when you're wired like me, and I have several friends who are, you expect a lot out of yourself and almost as much from those in your life. I expect a lot out of my husband, my kids, and people that want to be my friend. Remembering that people are in different phases of dealing with life is important and hard. And the same goes for myself. I'm pregnant and really happy to be pregnant. At the same time my dad is really, really sick with cancer. There's such polar opposite emotions in those two life experiences, I find myself toggling back and forth between peaceful and excited about the baby and really scared for my dad. I feel like I need to be a protector. Protecting myself and the baby I carry and wishing so much I could protect my dad from all that he is experiencing. That spills over into everything else. I want to protect my kids from hurt and danger and sometimes that hurt is coming from other kids/people. That complicates relationships, certainly. There are things in my control and there are things out of it. Ultimately, do I think I have the power to protect myself, the baby, my dad, every little thing that happens to the 3 kids? NO. Deep down I don't. But isn't it the human response to try? To think that something must be in our power, if only to make us not feel so useless?
1. a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification
a : a charming or attractive trait or characteristic
b : a pleasing appearance or effect : charm
When we take life into our own hands we don't leave room for that glorious thing called grace. We only leave room for fear, judgment, and isolation because we kind of suck at calling the shots. When we try to take control, we actually let go of freedom. I know I've written about this before, but it's been a while; when I toured with the Continental Singers a decade ago (ahhh!), I learned to let things go and not worry about the next day. I am planner, I have always been a planner. To take off on a tour bus with 25 other people for 3 months and really not have a clue where our next meal or bed was, was nerve wracking for me. Yeah, it was an adventure, but I didn't like everything feeling so out of my control. Amazingly, we always had a meal. We always had a bed to sleep in. Even though I didn't know what the next day would hold, God always did. He covered our bases better than we ever would've. Eventually I stopped thinking about it. I just let the course go as it did and trusted that the people in charge had done their work and God was going before us. That allowed me to be present in the moment and to feel peace. So I reflect on that lesson from time to time, because it's a hard lesson to live daily.
The way each of us handle situations, our ability to deal with conflict and resolution, whether we speak up or shy away, etc is often just a product of our experiences. I think we all tackle parenthood wanting the same thing; happy, successful, intelligent, conscientious children. But how we get there looks differently because we come from vastly different situations. We all want a marriage filled with love, friendship, experiences and memories; but how we get there looks differently because we have all packed our suitcases differently. How we handle joy and grief and the two at the same time varies greatly. How we communicate in friendships, how well we behave like a friend, how we handle family issues, how much we're willing to put up with or not put up with.....all depends so much on the journey our life has been. No two people will be exactly alike in how they view things. See much grace is required to make it through life???
This is where our ultimate and huge need for a Savior lives. In the realization that we tend to make poor choices. We tend to make life about ourselves. We tend to be selfish and self serving. We tend to judge and think before speaking. I want to be a person that extends grace first. Am I? Um, no. But I want to be. That's a life journey for sure. If I can surrender ME and allow God to run the show, I'll be a lot more graceful and grace-giving. I want to assume the best about people, to give people the benefit of the doubt. That probably starts with me. I'm harder on myself than anyone else, which is a scary thought at times.
I'm wired to expect perfect. That is my chemistry and I don't think I need to change that. But I do need to allow room for imperfection and grace. My highest compliment in school was when a teacher or professor wanted a copy of my paper for their example book. My entire being felt like it was glowing and I couldn't have been prouder. That became my goal; my papers had to be good enough the teachers would use me as an example. I was devastated if I got an A-. My one A- paper in Mr. Pagaard's history class still haunts me. Now as the mother of a student, I have to work in my own brain to not say something that comes off as, "well that's good but you can do better." Not everyone wants an A+++ in every subject! Someone who didn't care about their grades might've been jealous of my drive, but I didn't let myself rest. My mom told me a couple years ago that that was something about me that worried her when I was growing up. She could tell that no matter what she said, I'd push myself reaching for perfect. BUT, there is no perfect! Not in life, not in marriage, not in parenting. We just do our best and need a ton of grace.
As a parent, I have to back off and allow that maybe the Christmas tree lights will be far from perfect, but the kids will have memories of helping to string them. I failed miserably this last year and that was shameful. I wanted....yup, a perfect tree. But expecting perfect from a Christmas tree doesn't allow room for a 12, 4, and 2 year old to help :)
As we face 2013 with nearly an entire new year ahead of us, I hope you'll take this journey to grace with me. Apologize when you're wrong. Accept an apology when you're slighted. Assume the best out of people- including yourself. Remember how much Jesus loves and adores you, even when you are at your worst. He is more proud of you than any teacher asking for a copy of a paper could ever be.