That's What the Grace Is For
Updated: May 15, 2020
In our house we use this phrase, more and more all the time: "That's what the grace is for."
Right now, Whimsy is eating frosted shredded wheat out of the bag, sitting on the end of my treadmill. I was supposed to run or walk or something this morning because it's a Wednesday and I try to be on that thing three mornings a week. Lately, I can't seem to make myself even care. It's March now and we are well into Lent, and spring is trying to show up here in Arkansas like a pre-term baby. Much as you long for spring, it's not good when it comes too soon. It's too dry and too many things are trying to bloom when they could still so easily be frozen and lost.
What feels like a hundred things need my attention today. The dishwasher is broken again. I've lost count of how many dishwashers we have broken and repaired in this house over the last 6 years. It is starting to smell rotten and sweaty and the sinks are full of dirty dishes and leftover coffee poured over them when Calvin made this morning's fresh batch.
This is the season when I need to start planting all the little seeds to make my work grow over the next few months. I feel the urgency but not the motivation.
The truth is, I am weary. Too weary. I noticed a few weeks ago that I wasn't feeling things like I normally do. Like the onset of cold that keeps you from smelling, depression has a way of sneaking up on me and blocking up my senses. I should get on that treadmill. I should not eat a cookie for breakfast. I should take a vitamin. I should, should, should ...
A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon from John about how our lives are gifts. That each day has the ability to exist with eternal dimension and density. I learned so much from that sermon. But there is a flip side to all this awareness: maybe it's just me, but sometimes, I need to take the day for granted.
We get so many messages about "our wild and precious life." How we have to make everything count. How we gotta make hay while the sun shines. How we need to enjoy every second with our toddlers because they grow up fast. There is an urgency to these messages that is all find and good, but sometimes it's too much. Especially when your brain chemicals are not playing nice and frankly, you just need a vacation.
This is what the grace is for.
The grace is for when you can't pull it together. When you have already screwed it up. When you are scared to even try. When you should feel a certain way and you don't. The grace is for days that you put on workout clothes and never make it to the treadmill. The grace is for when you really really want to, but you just don't give a damn. The grace is for when you are grieving something so sad that you can't really function. The grace is for when you just want to go to bed at 10 in the morning.
I grew up in an environment that inadvertently sent the message that "God's grace is a really good thing, but try not to need it."
As I parent and care for other people around me, I am trying to say this:
God's grace is inexhaustible,
you can have as much as you need
whenever you need it.
Come as often as you want.
It will never dry up or expire.
You can't be overdrawn.
It's easy for me to tell other people that. It's harder to accept for myself.
I'm reading Elizabeth Gilbert's lovely book about creativity, Big Magic. She says that using our creativity "to help people" makes for a lousy motivation and frankly ends up with some pretty lousy art. (I'm looking at you Christian movies). Create to help yourself and thereby, maybe you can help someone else along the way.
So I am here. Writing it out. Thinking about how I can just let the sun rise and set and just be. I'm thinking about how I can help myself. Anne Lamott calls it "radical self care." She says we need to think of ourselves as the patient. How would I care for someone who feels the way I do?
Well, I guess I would let them know that I don't have an expectations. Because when you are depressed, other people's expectations weigh a ton ... they are really unbearable.
I would suggest that they get as much rest as possible, and try to do something different than they normally do because routines can be as exhausting as they are comforting.
I would validate their feelings as much as possible while reminding them that feelings are not permanent. Things can change.
I would tell them not to make any major life changes based on their feelings ... you know like quitting their job because it feels like they suck at it.
I would ask them to be kind to themselves. Not in the "treat yo-self" indulgent way that often just leads to feeling worse because you ate too much, spent too much or drank too much. But in the, "believe that you are really loved and valuable and act accordingly" kind of way. Put on some lipstick. Take a shower. Paint your nails. "Take the time to be ok," as the Robbie Seay Band put it.