Wednesday, January 20, 2016

opting out of resolutions, opting in for grace


Resolutions for this year?  Well, it's really the weirdest thing.  We turned the corner from December to January and it felt like a balloon deflated in me.  Not depression or sadness or anything like that.  More like exhaustion – plain life exhaustion.  An if I really want to live life the way I think I should and could and am called to then I need way more energy than this exhaustion.  So for this year, there are no resolutions.  (Gasp!)

Let me explain.

Best case scenario is that I'm an active, healthy, ministry-minded woman who is a loving wife, caring mother, loyal friend, attentive housekeeper, prepared meal planner, consistent blogger, and focused musician.  Sounds dreamy because that's what it is – a dream.  The truth is that I cannot be all of that simultaneously.  I'll skip days of exercise.  I'll tell the family we're going out to eat.  I'll lose my temper with the kids.  I'll take longer on a music project than I had planned.  I'll say something rude to Colt.  I'll push blogging aside because my mind is tired.  I'll let the laundry get out of hand.  I want so badly to do it all and to do it well.  But the kind of pressure I would have to live under to achieve all of those things to their fullest each day would require a non-human quality in me that I just don't possess.  None of us do.  There is an ebb and flow in all of these roles, jobs, and hobbies and I must accept that reality.

As I've reflected on this upcoming year, I've decided that what I need most is grace.  For 2016, I'm opting out of resolutions and opting in for grace.  (This doesn't mean you can't have resolutions and also be filled with grace.  Saying that for the sake of the easily offended internet.)

The past several months in church, an old song has made its way into the set list several times.  But a few Sundays ago, one line of lyrics was highlighted for me.  Out of nowhere, words so simple and old and familiar to my heart became like a sword.

And we can feel the love of God in this place
We believe your goodness
We receive your grace

We receive your grace.

I began to ask myself, do I really receive his grace? 

I've discovered that when I hear grace, I hear the wrong thing.  I hear, "Hey Claire, here's a cop out for all of those things you feel like you need to do and be.  Just take the grace and chill out!  No to-do lists and no stress!"  When I think of grace like that, it takes away the joy I find in chasing after what I love to do and who I want to be.  I certainly don't want to end 2016 filled with so much "grace" that I accomplished nothing, added on an extra 10 lbs., and slept too much.

But something tells me that's not quite what the Lord had in mind.

There's a difference between the grace I manufacture for myself and the grace that the Lord gives.

The grace I give myself sounds lazy and uninspiring.  It sounds like giving up.  But the grace that God offers says, "Claire, I just want you to know that I'm proud of you and I love you no matter what you get done today.  I love who you are and I love what you're chasing after.  Just remember your purpose in all of it – to know me and make me known.  Keep that in mind and you'll succeed every time."

Someone that loves and accepts me 100% even when I don't deserve it?  Why would I not say yes to that?  What keeps me from accepting grace in my life?

Pride.

Much like a child, my attitude towards God sometimes is "I do it!  I do it!"  Grace is hard for those of us who kind of sometimes a little bit think that they don't need it.  Although I feel like the Lord has lovingly educated me in that area, I still find myself feeling frustrated that I need grace.  I don't want you to have to cut me slack, God, because then that means I'm not capable.

(crickets)

Um, guess what, self?  I'm NOT capable.  I need all the slack there is!  When I decided to become a follower of God, I admitted my sin, recognized my shortcomings, and said a big YES to forgiveness, grace, and love I don't deserve.  It has nothing to do with my good deeds, my effort, or how many things I get checked off my list.  When I drop my pride, I can see my need for grace.

Personality.

"I put pressure on myself, that's just what I do." 
"That's the way I am and I can't change."
"I don't like to have to depend on anyone other than myself."

If we have given our lives to Christ, none of these excuses work anymore.  It's not a personality thing to not be okay with grace.  It's not okay to be perfectionists.  It's not okay for us to walk around with these self-made weights on our shoulders.  This is not how God meant for me to live and it's not how God meant for you to live.  We are not programmed to bear the burden of our sin or our to-do lists, and when we do, things usually get messy.  Choosing grace even when our natural personalities and instincts scream otherwise looks like, "God, thank you for making me someone who is independent and who loves to get things done.  But I recognize that I can't do it alone and I need your help.  I see that I hold on to too much.  Teach me how to give things over to you.  Teach me how to be dependent on you.  I want to be who you've made me to be and I want to live in the grace that you give me."

Guilt.

Satan's specialty.  If he can make us feel guilty for everything we're not doing right or not doing at all, then we get stuck.  In motherhood, we like to call this Mom Guilt.  And you know what, this is the year I kick Mom Guilt to the curb.  Mom Guilt is exhausting, unnecessary, and just a pack of lies.  We can't experience the freedom that Christ offers when we're bogged down by guilt.  We get so wrapped up in our failures that we start to believe there's no grace left for us.  What would it look like if I chose to accept my humanity and say yes to the grace of God in my life?

Dishes in the sink that I just couldn't get to - guilt grace.
A 4 year old who can't identify all of his letters because I haven't made a consistent effort - guilt grace.
Kale smoothies that have never been made or given to my children - guilt grace.
A recording date that continues to get pushed back - guilt grace.
Kids that have never had a picture taken with Santa - guilt grace. 
Photos on my hard drive of my kids that have yet to be organized - guilt grace.
Workouts that sometimes only happen once a week instead of five times - guilt grace.
Not sending Duke to the 3/4 year old preschool program but choosing to keep him in Kid's Day Out because it worked better for our schedules - guilt grace.
Frozen pizzas because can I just finally not cook for once? - guilt grace.

Those are small things, but they add up quickly.  If I condition my heart to believe that I should feel unnecessary guilt, I am isolating myself from grace.  If I truly lived in the grace that God is ready and willing to pour out on me, I would find myself feeling an abundance of freedom and love.

When pride, a piece of my personality, or guilt comes up against grace, I have a choice to make.  I can either believe a lie or I can ask the one who will never lie to me, "What do you think about this?  What do you say about me?  What is the truth?"  I wonder what would happen if I began approaching life that way.  That is the task at hand for 2016.

I cannot encompass the perfect version of me that I aspire to be.  And the closest I will ever come is when I allow God's love and grace to soak into my heart.  Feel free to remind me of grace when I get all I-can-do-all-things-through-me-who-strengthens-me.  2016, here we go.

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