Thin emotions and rich grace

It’s been a thin week. A week of emotions rising quickly to the surface. A week of highs and lows. A week of frustrations, disappointments and in-betweens. And I find myself walking thin ice. Holding fragile feelings in shaky hands. Stepping on eggshells. Living life holding on, two hands grasping for something secure while always searching for steady ground on which to stand.

And I wonder sometimes, is it really grace which is needed? And does that rich grace come wrapped up in a cloak of forgiveness? In garments of compassion? Is it veiled or is it starkly visible? Elusive graces are so hard to hold in shaky hands.  But I am grateful tonight that mercy comes in so many different forms.  Both tender and tough. It’s face surprises each time it is encountered.  And yet. It’s always just what I need, showing up at the very hour I need it to come.

Tender mercy, tough love.

He reached for me last night. It was the smallest of gestures, a hand on the shoulder. But I came undone. And all the pent up stress, all the anger- came flowing out of me like a surge of water through a broken dam. I felt like I could finally breathe again. Felt tension release through tightened shoulders. I felt release. And although it was just the smallest of offerings, it was enough.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.  A gesture.

We spend our whole lives waiting for justice, for the balance to level. When what we really need to do is come undone. To find ourselves emptied. Off kilter a bit. So that we can be brought back to fragile equilibrium.  Emptied. Of all pride and anger and egotism and fear. So that we can then be filled again: with Love. Filled to overflowing. Allowing ourselves the sacred mystery that is the laying down- of one’s own desires and sense of fairness.  Emptied, so as to experience the fullness of grace that is offered in bountiful compassion. We can only share in this sweet offering by laying down our armaments. Setting aside our armor. Stripped of all that is covering that which is authentic to our true selves. So that we can finally be seen for the rare beauty that is the wild and messy underneath it all.

We are stripped bare and covered back up again with a garment of gorgeous grace.

It’s never easy to receive, that kind of rich grace that is so desired. So sought after. We covet it- and want to earn it.  At times, we wish to make someone else earn it. We want it to cost something- it is dear. So precious. And yet, grace that costs is never truly grace. It is corrupted in its price. Grace must be offered without conditions.  Freely.  Undeserved, it is liberally given. And then, accepted in love.

He reached for me last night- across the chasm, and I felt the ice begin to thaw. The ground beneath my feet gave way yet again. And I fell into the arms of love.

Unfettered. Broken. Yet wholly complete. Undone, but still intact.

Grace has that kind of way with me.

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Joy found in second chances…

This past week, I read a note from a friend in which she stated she would not be allowing two former classmates from university access to her group of friends on Facebook due to the grief these girls had caused her in university.  She actually posted this note as her Facebook status, thus publicly denying these girls friendship with her in such a way that would allow anyone out there in Cyberville to be privy to this knowledge.  I was awed by her courage to publicly state her feelings in such a raw and open way.

I read the comments that followed her status update, much of it self-righteous spiritual jargon preaching that she forgive and love her enemies.  Some comments were combatitive and others were humorous.  One lady said it was all “much ado about nothing.”  I was not sure how I felt on the whole issue of holding onto and acting upon strong feelings that were born in the past with regards to how they play out in the future.  That is, until tonight when I was on Facebook myself.

I started thinking about my own Facebook friend list, as well as my real-life friendships, and I got to thinking: what if everyone I had hurt or offended in high school or university and beyond, for one reason or another, held those offenses over my head.  Where would I be now?

In particular, I think of one girl with whom I have been in contact with quite regularly, of late.  She and I were never close in high school, and I am afraid I may have not given her much of a chance back then.  I was too busy pursuing the popular guys and girls and trying to fit in with the cool crowd.   I look back and wonder: how many toes did I step on while trying to push my way up the social ladder?

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity of time and space within which to mature.  I am a different person than I use to be.  I think of how insecure I was back then, and I realize that much of the pain I caused others was due to my own feelings of inadequacy.  I did not feel good about myself, and there were times in the past that I acted thoughtlessly towards others.  Often those that belittle others have themselves been belittled.  Those who tease have themselves been teased.   Those who are careless in friendship have at sometime been tossed aside by another.  Those who bully were once the victim.

I would like to believe that in my own case, the times I may have been careless with another classmate’s feelings were few and far between, as I have actually never been denied any of my Facebook friendship requests.   And in real life friendships, I am constantly critiquing myself as to how I am present in each moment I now live.  We like to think the best of ourselves.  But if I were to ever receive the denial, it would be food for thought and good reason to offer a heartfelt apology to that one from which the message came.  I can relate to those on both sides of this story: both the bully and the victim.

I have three beautiful girls.  One of my girls created a book last week in which she drew pictures of girls she thought were weird and ugly.  She actually labelled one of these pictures with another girl’s name.  I was absolutely appalled.  I showed my husband and together, we had a SERIOUS discussion with her about why this was not acceptable and how it would not ever happen again.  EVER.   She cried.  I would like to think the message was driven home with her that nice girls do not treat people like that.  True beauty comes from within, and those who count themselves as among the beautiful must have a soul that exudes grace and dignity and acceptance towards others.  I want my girls to be this kind of beautiful.

We are all in this social circle that turns around and around, and “what goes around does come around” as the cliché goes.  We, ourselves, have times of feeling powerful and times of feeling powerless.  We can be kind and we can suffer pain from the unkind hand of another.  We can feel anger and we can feel joy, both at the hand of those we call our friends.  But so can they feel all of this and more, these ones whom we call friends, when the shoe is worn on the other foot.

When we walk in another’s shoes, we come to see that what they feel and who they are is not really that much different than who we are ourselves.  And it should serve as a reminder that people are more like us than we think they are.  We are all in this together.  Inside us all beats a heart made of the same stuff, of flesh and blood.  We come from the same darkness of a mother’s womb and emerge into light by the same struggle.  We are beauty from ashes.  We are body, soul and spirit.  We are a reflection of the image of God Himself.  And we are special and wonderful and rare.

And if that is all true, than most everyone deserves a second chance.  And so do we.  And so do I.