stopping to speak “grace”

After three days of sunshine and sixty to seventy degree weather, this rainy morning feels like a let-down. The temperature has dropped back down to the fifties, and I feel confined to the couch again. My plans to go to a coffee shop with my laptop and my Bible were foiled by an intense downpour just as I was putting on my rain jacket. Our border collie looking at me with sad eyes just begging to snuggle didn’t help, either, so I stripped off the jacket and settled back in to listen to the rain.

This week has been full. More so than normal weeks of work. I normally get gaps in my schedule here and there to get things done around the house or sit at a table on campus and catch up on texts and e-mails while waiting for the next appointment. Each spare moment has been filled with various work-related projects, cramming as much as possible into this week before spring break.

Yesterday, I felt myself at the epitome of desperate and shameless. In my thirty minute break between addressing invitations for our fundraising dinner and helping facilitate a class on how to lead a Bible study, I grabbed Slim’s to-go, arrived to the locked classroom early, and sat on the cold tile floor in the hallway. I crammed potato salad into my mouth and halfway glanced up at the students walking past me trying to hide their grins. It was my first moment since my day had started to simply sit and stare.

My nature is not to be anxious about what’s going on in my life. While I have many other sin-patterns and struggles, anxiety hasn’t been a prevalent one in my story. However, over the past couple of weeks, I have started to experience moments of panic. People have described it to me as a weight sitting on top of their chest, and I understand that metaphor now. When I try to take in all that will happen (or needs to happen) over the next two months or so, I feel that heaviness slowly creeping in and wanting to take over.

And the thing I am tracing it back to is a sense of carrying full responsibility for everything going on in my life — therefore negating God at work. I carry the weight that “if I don’t get this done right now, then xyz won’t happen and everything will fall apart.” As if God’s provision were dependent on my performance. I think that I have to get all of the details of my life together now so that I will survive April. As if God can’t sustain me day by day. I worry that I don’t initiate with friends enough and they will therefore stop being my friend because I forgot to text them to check in on their week.  As if even my friendships are dependent on my personal efforts and not God using people to be tangible examples of His love. As if He isn’t the One Who provided community in the first place.

I have started a new habit of stopping to close my eyes and repeat “grace” to myself in those moments. A verbal reminder that it’s not all up to me. A powerful whisper that cuts down my pride of self-sufficiency. I once heard someone say that maturing in your walk with God does not mean that you mess up less and less, so that you need less grace. Rather, spiritual maturity is consistently growing to recognize your need for grace more and more.

Our salvation is “not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Shouldn’t that mean that we live in that same “by grace, through faith” mentality in the everyday pieces of our lives?

In the moments when your schedule feels hectic and you aren’t sure how you will get it all done – grace.
When you are working against a deadline and worry about the results of not meeting it – grace.
As patience wears thin and your shoulder muscles start to tighten – grace.
In loneliness and fear and panic and dread and uncertainty – grace.

When you feel overwhelmed, try stopping to close your eyes and just speak the word grace over yourself and your activities. Take the focus off you and your own abilities, reminding yourself of your place in God’s grand story. He is still God. He is still both the narrator and the hero of the story. He is still the one in control, and in the role He has given to us, we are called to embrace grace.

At the end of each day, even every hour,  I will release everything and trust it to His care. I am not enough, but Christ is more than enough.  Whisper to yourself, “Grace.” 

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