Saturday, January 3, 2015
Year of Grace
Three days into the New Year and I am sick again. Or perhaps truthfully, I never quite got over that cold that arrived with December. I feel guilty about being sick. It is just a stupid cold - anyone can get over a cold. And since I can't, I must be doing something wrong.
Maybe if I just thought positively enough (Haven't you ever heard someone say, "I don't have time for a cold so I'm just not going to give into it!"), if I ate more spinach and apples, if I took the right medicine, or if I used the right herbs and oils, if I did or didn't exercise - if I figured out just the right combination, I could get better. If I did everything right, surely I wouldn't be sick.
And then I realized, this is how I think about everything. Oh, not rationally. Rationally I know that nobody is perfect, that certain illness is inevitable, that I cannot wield control over the whole world through my sheer goodness. But just below the surface of rational, I believe that pretty much everything that happens in my life is somehow a result of my perfection or imperfection.
If I did everything right, Adalyn would sleep well every night and take long naps every day. If I did everything right, Juliana would meekly obey instead of fighting approximately everything she is asked to do. If I did everything right, Kevin and I would have meaningful conversations every evening as we gazed lovingly into each others' eyes. If I did everything right, students would flock to me to explore the mysteries of life. If I did everything right, maybe I would finally feel satisfied with myself.
And so, in the midst of this delusion, I realize the word that has come to me, my word for 2015, hasn't come a moment too soon.
I spent the first part of last year striving and striving and almost collapsing every night with soul-deep exhaustion. Over the weeks and months of struggle, I felt an idea reiterated in what I read (like 1000 Gifts), the songs I heard (like Gungor and All Sons and Daughters), and in my own thoughts: beauty. I didn't choose that word for last year, but in the end it chose me. As I began searching for the beauty in the everyday, I saw beauty. Instead of chaffing at my limitations and longing to get away from it all, I started to recognize and appreciate the beauty that was already all around. At least, most of the time.
I think my perspective on life has changed a lot, but my inward struggle remains. The drive to be good enough. The need to prove myself. The pressure to get it all right. Once again in this struggle, my word came to me:
This year I am declaring a year of grace. I will not make resolutions. We might not eat healthier. I will not figure out the perfect discipline strategy to finally cure a selfish nature. My hair may permanently mold itself into a ponytail. Some days my to-do list will get longer instead of shorter.
I am not reveling in or exalting my imperfections. Believe me, I want to figure it all out! I am just declaring (mostly to myself) that I am human. Striving comes naturally: accepting grace does not. And when I cannot accept grace for myself, I cannot give it to others.
How am I going to live in grace? I don't really know. How do you practice being over doing? How do you practice being accepted? How do you dig out the deep rooted deception that I am only as worthy as my usefulness? That my purpose in life is to attain perfection.
Right now, I am starting with breathing. Like a mantra for yoga or meditation or birth: Breathing in grace, breathing out grace. Letting it fill my lungs and soak into my bones and bring life to my heart. Not just reading words of grace and saying, "I should believe that," but setting the words in my mind and letting them rest there. Making grace a habit, until it becomes a part of my daily rhythm, until it is as consistent as a heartbeat and necessary as a breath.
Recognizing and rejecting the lies of perfection and striving and not-good-enough. And when I fail, when I become entangled in them all over again, stopping to breathe. Setting it down - along with the guilt and frustration and discouragement that I can't even get grace right! - and choosing grace once again.
It won't happen this year or really ever. I will never reach grace-perfection, not in this imperfect self in this broken world. But this year if I learn to take more grace into myself and breathe it out onto those around me, if that is all I learn, if that is (tiny shudder) all I accomplish in 365 days, the whole year will be worthwhile.
[linking up with Velvet Ashes: One Word]