Saturday, January 2, 2016

Grace in Retrospect

When I chose Grace as my “One Word” for 2015, I wasn’t sure how I would really go about growing in grace. I started reading a couple of grace-related books because how else do you go about learning something? I knew I needed more than head knowledge, but I didn’t know I would be learning about grace through forced-acceptance.

My year in review would look something like this.
- 8 months of pregnancy
- 1 violent stomach bug and 1 less violent, longer-lasting mysterious stomach ailment
- 4 months of mostly constant “morning sickness”
- 1 month of severe allergies
- 7 weeks of bad colds
- Lot of general pregnancy ailments like difficulty moving, digesting, sleeping, or thinking clearly

I spent a lot of time inside because I was sick or because it hurt to climb to the fifth floor or because I couldn’t go out without a mask and a large box of tissues.  I spent a lot of time on the couch because I was sick or because I didn’t want to throw up or because I felt like I really might die of tiredness.

If we actually had food to eat and nobody got buried under a pile of laundry or toys, that was probably a successful day. There were five students I saw on a relatively regular basis, and that was about the extent of my campus interactions. I taught Juliana as often as I had voice to do it. It was a year of great limits.

I spent a good deal of time feeling frustrated - not everyone has such a hard time with pregnancy, why me? I felt guilty for not doing more, for neglecting my kids and not spending time with students. I felt discouraged about feeling so bad all the time. I fought against the limits.

And then, eventually, I accepted them. I still got frustrated and discouraged (and did I mention irritable?). But I realized that actually, this was what I needed.

It’s impossible to accept grace when you still think you can keep it all together. Working hard to be strong, pushing through, thinking positive - that’s what you’re supposed to do as long as you possibly can. But sometimes, it doesn’t work. However hard you try to be strong, you still get sick. Pushing through means getting sicker. And pithy motivational sayings make you want to punch someone.

In the end, I learned about grace because I had to. It wasn’t an intellectual pursuit. I didn’t finish those books. I didn’t read through the Bible or even read through one book of the Bible. Instead I read the same passages, the same verses over and over again. I listened to the same songs over and over. I learned the same things over and over, and each time the truth sank in a little deeper.

When I think about what I accomplished - or mainly didn’t accomplish, it looks like a dormant year. I was a tree in winter: silent, stripped, waiting. But I think I will look back on this year as an important one. Not only because I grew a child, but also because I grew. In the deep, quiet places that cannot be reached in the busyness of accomplishment and self-reliance.

It hasn’t been my favorite year. I can’t say I want to continue in this period of sickness and pregnancy and limitation. But looking back, I am grateful. It has been a year of grace.

I haven’t yet settled on my One Word for the new year. It will be a year of newbornhood - of long nights and daily growth and constant neededness. It will be a year of potty training and the start of another three year old, God save us all. It will be a year of learning to read and changes at Chinese school and inexorbable growth. It will be long and full and exhausting and pass so quickly.

So I know my idea for the new year...something about seasons or slowing down and living the moment, about investing in what is right in front of me. But I haven’t yet decided on my One Word. But it’s only January. I’ve still got time.

[Linking up with Velvet Ashes: One Word]


Carolyn S said...

Thanks, Ruth, for being so vulnerable and open and for sharing what you learned through weakness and limitations. Carolyn Stent

Danielle Wheeler said...

Oh, Ruth, I'm so sorry it's been such a hard year! But wow, so moving to see how you are reflecting on it, sinking into grace. I love this line: "In the deep, quiet places that cannot be reached in the busyness of accomplishment and self-reliance." Yes, there is a special growth that happens only here.