Why Is Grace So Hard to Grasp?   5 comments

My constant refrain this year past, muttered or sighed or groaned: “I am SO tired!”  Many times every day and out loud to myself–in the kitchen, on walks, at work, and even in my mind as I spot tasks that stare grumpily at me, like the window air-conditioner sitting on our coffee table that I brought up from the basement two days back.  I’ve barely managed to keep up with life: washing clothes and then leaving them in the laundry basket to fish out for work, while I dump dirty clothes on the floor next to it; watering plants just before they die, or not; cooking raw meat just before it rots.  I’ve dropped other things after dragging them around mentally like a ball and chain, such as the $8 rebate from Ace Hardware that expired… well I actually didn’t give up on that, it just ran out before I mailed it in.  Unfortunately, I never give up on things.  I just accumulate them like sandburrs on bare feet.

I could sit here on the living room sofa and write a discouraging list of tasks that I can literally see from here: A dvd player to take to Goodwill–it’s been sitting accusingly at the end of the loveseat for two weeks; an old external hard drive to process, walnuts in a coffee container that need shelling, now practically buried behind accumulating paperwork, books, and other stuff that needs to be sorted and resolved; a briefcase full of files and lists neglected for many months; a dime-sized food stain on the sofa arm under my wrist that needs cleaning–it has been there for two months; and the latest addition–insulation that arrived yesterday, now propped against the wall, that needs to be hung in the attic.  I’m not even mentioning the things that are in the room but just out of sight–I am fully aware of them–out of sight out of mind is a laughable proverb for those with a mind like my own.  I haven’t even touched on the cars, yard, basement, shed, office–a thousand obligations wrap like Lilliputian threads around me.  I could cut off the least important hundred tasks and make no difference to the overall affect.

Mind you, I go to work every day, pay my bills and mortgage on time, walk the dogs, take out the trash, shop and cook enough to keep us fed adequately, mow the lawn, exercise, wash my clothes.  In other words, I am a normally functioning human, which seems enough for most folks.  I’m amazed at the ability others have to simply ignore their overflowing in-boxes.  Something needs to change in my outlook on life, somehow to live under the flow of grace in a way that releases me from this constant weight of obligation.  For all the work I have put into grasping this principle over many years, one would think I would have found freedom by now.  Even learning grace seems to be such an arduous, long-term effort–my thoughts, my habits, my feelings slide so easily back into my old ways.  That sounds so wrong-headed even in saying it… shouldn’t grace be easy by definition?  Law is so deeply engrained in my soul.  It stains every thought to the roots.  Well, let me celebrate each baby step and not add insult to injury by condemning my lack of growth in grace.  It will come, it will take time, and this post is one more reminder to myself to re-orient my soul in line with God’s unconditional acceptance.


Posted May 7, 2015 by janathangrace in Personal

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5 responses to “Why Is Grace So Hard to Grasp?

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  1. ok — so maybe it’s NOT something you have to *grasp* — maybe it’s not something you have to *understand* or *figure out*… what if it’s just something you _experience_ and relax into?

    what if it has nothing to do with your brain???

    what if it’s something you just are given and receive? and what if nothing else matters?… like, really?

    • Keith, I like your idea, and it seems to work for a lot of people. At times I can “relax into” grace as you put it, but I find that there are constant dynamics, internal and external, that are at work to tighten me back up, and I have discovered that unless I identify those pressures and deal with them (not just once but as often as they arise) I slip inexorably and often unconsciously back into tension. I have discovered personally that spiritual “bundling” doesn’t work for me. That is, (for example) I can’t just confess all my sins at once as a big package deal, “Father forgive me for all my sins,” not because God wants me to wallow in each one individually, but that to the extent I fail to identify and understand each one, I find myself unfree and unaware, repeatedly falling to the same things without significant spiritual growth in those areas. I find for myself the same is true of the faith-grace dynamic. I have to identify each block to grace as often as it occurs so that I can trust God in a very particular way regarding that specific issue and occurrence. It leads to permanent and measurable growth, but it is a long process. I tried many spiritual shortcuts to this process and could never make any of them work for myself.

  2. Needed some encouragement today so I scrolled through some of your recent entries and landed here. Some of what you touched on reminded me of some of the Alcoholics Anonymous material I have been reading through of late. It talks a lot about “surrender” and that it is not about ‘fighting’ but ‘letting go’. This is so foreign for me. We are conditioned to fight and work hard and strive toward better things and to not expect things to just happen, yet, ‘Grace’ just happened to us, with no merit of our own. My understanding of grace tends to lead me to oscillate between working really hard and taking the credit for any success and failures that come, or just shut down completely and let the grass grow, figuratively speaking, and before I turn around, my bank account is almost empty and my car needed an oil change about 3,000 miles ago.

    If somewhere were to ask me what grace looks like, I think I would say something to the effect of, ‘grace is the belief and trust that God has given us the resources we need to do whatever it is He’s asked of us’. Which invariably leads to the question, ‘what has He asked of us’, which we all must figure out for ourselves. All that to say, I am still trying to learn how to live in the place of grace and not the oscillating pattern I have for so many years, working really hard until I burn out and then just crash for an extended period of time. This makes me think of James 4, where he speaks about the things that war against our soul and how for me, much of the battle for understanding grace, rest in the my ability to let go and allow the Lord to purify my motives and my feeble understanding of what my life should look like.

    I hope surrender will become more clear to me as the years go by because I still gravitate to seeing it as, going get a large pepperoni pizza, 2 liter Sprite and plop down in front of the TV to watch a sporting event or start binging on DVD’s of my latest TV drama infatuation. I’m not sure that’s exactly what the biblical understanding of ‘surrender’ means, although I suppose there is grace in that as well..:)

    • Brett, thanks for sharing so honestly. I agree with you that part of grace is to supply the resources we need to fulfill whatever role God has for us. I think a more fundamental part of grace is something that comes before any doing at all and is rather a repeated discovery or remembering that I am adequate, accepted, loved lavishly as I am, right now, sitting on the sofa eating pizza and watching the Lakers. To live in the full realization and comfort of that unconditional love of God, to draw near to him in our neediness and love is really all that he asks of us. It is in the freedom and well-being of that acceptance that our energy flows out towards the world, an overflow of grace as it were. Sitting in a recliner with a 2 liter Pepsi is only problematic when it is undoing me–dulling me to who I am and what I truly need in order to be well, vibrant, full of life, and connected with others in mutually satisfying and enriching relationships. To be honest, I watch a lot of TV because it is one of the few things that allows me to disconnect from the stressful aspects of life, and so it enables me to be more present to myself and others during the rest of the day. I hope you can find those things that help you more and more relax into the unconditional embrace of God.

  3. Thanks for your response Kent. I do agree, the things I/we do to veg out at times is not a bad thing in and of themselves, I mention them because I can become addicted to the feelings of “escaping” and as you alluded to, ‘dulling me to who I am’. Accepting and believing that His grace is enough in the hard times and not living in those places of escape is a real battle for me. I am definitely the guy that can veg out until the grass is over my head and papers are piling up outside the door, as it’s usually all or nothing with me.
    I have received a lot of encouragement from you sharing your journey as it relates to job and direction stuff. Much of my daily challenges over the years have revolved around, paying the bills, while desiring to do things that give me energy and seem meaningful to my heart and soul. That’s a whole other conversation but walking in His grace and truth while doing the mundane is something that’s a constant struggle for me, which I guess proves the Lord’s sense of humor, because He has given me plenty of the mundane to tend to. Such is life I suppose.

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