My eyes pop open--wide open. Dark. I glance at the clock. 5:00. 5:00? I roll over and close my eyes. Sleep doesn't come. In fact the only thing that comes is a whisper in my mind, "I want to talk to you about grace."
At 5:00 a.m.?
While I am sure this conversation can wait until the sun is up, obviously God feels differently, so I crawl out of bed and close my bedroom door behind me so my husband can continue his slumber. With coffee in hand, I sit in my recliner and prepare to hear about grace.
For a few weeks now, I have not enjoyed living with me, and I am quite sure no one else has either. I have been stressed to an extreme level trying to get things done. To be quite honest, the expectations I've put on myself and others are just unrealistic, and I know it. It's not just expecting "big" things to be done that aren't. It's the absurd overreaction to small things. Crumbs on the counter. Toys left on the floor. Bathrooms not picked up to my liking. Shoes left for me to trip over instead being put in the closet. Everyday things that don't make a difference after today that turn me into a tyrant that inflicts verbal wounds that can last a lifetime. Perfectionism run amuck.
Last night I went to bed in its strangle hold, hardly able to breath, knowing it is sucking the life out of me, my relationships, and my home. A simple prayer choked out from under the shame and discouragement: "God, find me. Help me. Deliver me. Deliver all of us."
And this morning, He wants to talk to me about grace...what it is not...what it is. I listen and breath in the life He offers, not through definitions or high theology, but in small words and simple terms, in emotions and life samples I can understand.
Grace is not perfectionism.
Grace is not unrealistic expectations.
Grace is not humility and shame when I do something wrong.
Grace is not being remembered for something stupid I did in high school or college or even yesterday.
Grace is not having to live up to my bad choices.
Grace is not being imprisoned by the mistakes I make.
Grace is God's knowing that I am going to make mistakes--some of them huge--and His providing ahead of time for me to live beyond the limitations of those mistakes. Grace allows me to be the person I want to be, not the person I've been. It allows me to look to the future with hope instead of at the past with shame.
Grace knows I'm going to step on some folks' toes, literally and figuratively, and it allows me to be brave when I am right and humble when I am wrong. Grace makes no pretention of perfection. In fact, grace is the Truth that says perfection is a myth and a mental and emotional prison to which the Lord never wanted me bound. It acknowledges imperfection is a way of life in this human condition but provision has been made that allows perfectly wonderful things to happen anyway.
Grace says the toothpaste tube can be squeezed from the end or the middle, that small forks and big forks dumped into the same divider is okay, curling up in blankets and reading to children is more important than a spotless floor, a grumpy cashier doesn't mean a ruined day, and plans gone awry may be God's plan to put a blessing in my path.
Grace gives freedom to me to do my best and know it'll be enough, not because of my perfection, but because His pefect grace is sufficient to carry me from there.
Copyright Jerri Phillips 2009