My church girlfriends and I often exhort each other with the reminder that “there’s _________ grace,” grace for fill-in-the-blank with whatever challenge or insufficiency the other is facing. There is dirty-dishes-piled-in-the-sink grace and there is moms-of-teenagers grace and there is I-cannot-do-this-one-more-day-grace. We sometimes laugh in our exhortation but deep down we know it is sometimes hard to see the provision of grace that is ours.
I wonder why I am so blind to the graces in my life. It is true we are all busy, life is hard, our struggles blind us, and we need the gentle reminder of friends to slow down and see grace. Grace also demands I own my insufficiency and my inadequacy as well as my outright desperation and depravity. I must acknowledge the end of me before I begin to see grace in all its beauty.
Same for receiving grace. It is humiliating to freely receive a kindness, a kindness wholly undeserved and with no quid pro quo attached. For some of us, it’s even a little embarrassing. But that is grace, is it not? Free, humbling, even humiliating, openhanded goodness we could never repay.
Recently I read Kara Tippett’s book The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard. It was not exactly the funnest book to read because it’s about cancer and death and because of the nearness of Kara’s story to that of my friend who also lost her life to cancer last year. But it is a hopeful book and a beautiful book, hopeful and beautiful in that it is an unwavering testimony to the goodness and sufficiency of the grace of God even in the worst of circumstances.
Kara talks of receiving graces from friends and church members, gifts she could only receive and could never repay. She writes:
Seeking grace has been a theme since I met Jesus, but it wasn’t the very air I breathed to get through each moment—each scary, hard moment. The looking has now become my practice. The names of the graces, the gifts I don’t deserve, is new to me. But I do not believe you need to face cancer to see the value of looking for and naming the graces in your own moments, days, weeks, lifetime. To capture this beauty in this weariness, even if your story doesn’t look like mine, will enrich your moments, give you a new perspective, and help you lift your head in the impossibility and pain in living. Hard is hard.
What gave Kara the clarity of vision to see these graces? Cancer.
Cancer has given me the freedom to see my story with me utterly not in it. Sans Kara. I saw the grace of care and community when I could not reciprocate my love to the givers. Cancer showed me the beautiful community that could be built into a church that didn’t have me doing anything. Cancer showed me the gift and strength of weakness, that in the place of utter inability, Jesus was able. The beauty of the broken was the gift cancer gave to our family. Suffering taught us a new song of what ministry could be. How do I communicate that gift and help you see the love in the lack of the expectation without you facing such devastation in your own life? How do I communicate the gift of weakness, neediness, and utter dependence for each moment and the beauty it brought to our community? How do I encourage grace and the freedom to exhale from the endless expectations you place on yourself?
I can spot myself in so many mamas I come in contact with daily. I see so much going, doing, and wearing out in the effort to find grace. My heart is so full of love for the overachieving mom, and I long to share the heart of slowing and hearing. I see my former self in the mama who is doing every activity, seeking acceptance in her ability, and striving to capture goodness in her going. I recognize the tired eyes and the efforts at speaking with an energy she cannot feel. I want to encourage her to slow down, to rest, to stop—but I know I would not have listened to me. I would have politely smiled and kept moving to the next thing—the endlessness of the next thing.
May I slow down and look for and name the multitudes of blessings, of graces, the Lord grants me each day, each moment. I want to see grace, the beauty of the Lord’s mercy and provision in Christ no matter my circumstance. We value those testimonies of problem -> grace -> presto! no more problem. But, as Kara and others have testified, sometimes there is only the beauty of grace and glory of sharing the suffering of Christ and knowing His sufficiency in weakness. Life is hard and may not get easier yet there is always, abundantly _______ grace. Yes and amen.