Adventures in Grace

The older I get, the more I realize what “grace” is all about.

Perhaps the older you get, the more you personally realize how fucked up you are, and how – for most of us – we never intended to be so dysfunctional.   When you are a teenager, or a young adult, you look at your dysfunctional family and lament how you wish your parents were “normal” and paid more attention to you and didn’t make so many mistakes.  It’s an ideal way of thinking, really, because you have NO idea what it is like to raise a child (or 5 children in my parent’s case).  It’s hard to forgive your parents (or whoever it is in your life) because you just assume they could have been better (and perhaps they could have been) but you never take the chance to weigh in the circumstances and the variables that played into why exactly they were how they were, or why a certain event played out the way it did.

As I grow older, and I experience lapses in patience, bouts of fatigue and sickness that leave me bewildered and hanging on by my fingertips (so to speak), all the while having to take care of toddlers whom I barely relate with, I am beginning to “understand” how hard it is to be perfect… how utterly impossible it is.  And it is, perhaps, out of a desperate need of grace (mainly from those I let down) that I am beginning to understand it more and more.

There are so many problems with the assumption that someone is “bad” and can be “better”.  

Well, no. Let me restate that.  Because it’s obvious that a man or woman who takes advantage of children in some hurtful way is indeed “bad” and needs to be “better”.  Or a man or woman who cheats and steals is in fact “bad” and hurting others and needs to get “better”.

No, that’s safe to say.
So let me try again.

There are so many problems with the assumption that the reason someone is “bad” is of their own “evil” doing and because they have brought this on themselves and they just need to “make a decision” and they will get “better” – the old “repent”, or “turn the other way”.  

Any assumption is dangerous, as every situation is different… but that’s exactly my point – every situation is different, and grace is needed in all situations because the fact is – we just don’t know.  You don’t know if the “evil” terrorist just loves hurting people and from an early age made a decision to hate people and hurt people (probably not) or if over years of misinformation, misunderstanding, prejudice, judgements and assumptions – they are acting not out of trying to hurt others or be “evil” or “bad” – but they are simply doing what they feel is right.

My point is this, the more you know about the history of a person, the details behind why they are exactly how they are, the more grace you can have for them.  

I think this perspective comes from having kids.  I look at my girls and think, there is no way any of them could grow up to intentionally hurt (even kill) another person… but I know, it’s possible.  Because it’s happened before.  Children grow up, and some children grow up to be awful human beings who take advantage of others and destroy other people’s lives.  But I DO NOT believe that these people wake up one day and make this decision to hurt others.  I would argue it is mainly other people’s influence and actions towards an individual that determines how that person will turn out.  Now, I don’t believe that 100% of the time, because I’ve seen people react differently to similar circumstances.  One child may turn away from their abusive parents and find peace in a life far away from the hate and pain of their childhood – while their sibling might grow up to resent and hate their parents and allow that hatred to infiltrate their souls and fill them with the exact same bitterness that they were shown.

Maybe what I am saying is that I am believing less and less in free-will.  OMG. I can’t believe I just said that… but more and more I am convinced that people are not to blame for the decisions they make, but instead they are lost, confused and ignorant to what is causing them to act a certain way.  We are so unaware, most of the time, of the stimuli that are affecting the way we are… our mental state, our bodies health, the shows we watch, the people we hang out with…  Grace is needed… grace is forgiveness, it is understanding, it is letting go of the “facts” of someone’s actions and looking beyond that to the person they could be if they were free from all the chains that entrap them, that shape (have shaped) them into what they are.

I believe there is a God that understands all things.  An all-knowing God who sees all and forgives all.  A God who displays grace to all people because that God knows exactly WHY they are the way they are, and exactly what they could be if the things outside of their control were different.

I’m not saying that people don’t get better, and that ultimately it doesn’t begin with an acknowledgement of “sin” or wrong doing, and a turning around / repenting sort of thing.  Sure.  But there is no path back to perfection (at least in this life)… and some chains are permanent… and I believe that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be like him… to accept all people, no matter how they are, or how they are living, or the things they do – we welcome them and love them and accept them.  It’s not a behavioral religion – Christianity – it shouldn’t be at least.  It is a LOVE religion.  And love, and grace, covers a multitude of sins.

Live with more grace today.  Let things go. Try it. I’m going to.

Will launch later

I have no idea where to begin with this post. It’s hard, when you stop writing, to come back months later and attempt to unload all of your thoughts, feelings, and ideas.  I can never summarize all that has transpired in the time between posts, so it usually ends up being about a specific, relevant thought, feeling, or idea.  But you have to start somewhere. You have to reach down, through the muck, and pull the plug.  And the draining begins.

I am so full of stress. It’s crazy how invisible and hard to diagnose stress is. But it’s heavy, super heavy.  If a scale could measure stress as well as body mass, I’m sure my scale would be off the charts right now.  Perhaps my greatest cause of unrelieved stress is that I never talk about it.  I never pull the plug, and let it drain.  I guess I never think I have to – like I said, this is some invisible stuff.  But right now I feel awful, and it’s either a health issue – or its stress.

So what is so stressful…?  Well, maybe I should make a list:

  1. We just moved to a new town
  2. … right next door to my in-laws
  3. … a new town in which I have no friends
  4. … and I know nothing about.
  5. I’m working from home (if you don’t work from home, you don’t know how stressful this can be)
  6. I’m running my own business
  7. I’m parenting when I am not working
  8. I’m working on the house when I am not doing one of the two things I just mentioned
  9. I have no local friends, no one to call to go see a movie, go get a drink, or to bitch to about how stressed I am
  10. Robin is pregnant. And I’m trying to be helpful.
  11. Add all of this up, and add on top of it the guilt of feeling stressed, the inability to say anything because I feel like I am complaining – even now I want to apologize for making this list and say I’m not trying to complain. Sheesh.

There you go.

I feel sick. Literally. But I don’t think it’s a disease.  I think it’s stress.

So what do I need?  God, that’s such a hard question.  I have no idea. Somebody help me out here… what do I need?

Our first session of marriage counseling, me and Robin’s counselor asked me: “Jim, what do you need?”

And do you know what I told him?

“I have no idea”.

Why is it so hard for me to admit to what I need? No. Not just admit, I can’t even think of what I need.

Ok, I think I know:

I need someone who cares about me. Is it bad to say, I need someone, who is not my family, and not my wife, to care about me.  You know… usually we call them: friends.  But not friendS – just

—————————————— UPDATE ———————————————-

Weird… I wasn’t done with this post and for some reason WordPress published it.  Strange. Maybe I scheduled it without even knowing.  Hopefully my site was not hacked.

Tracie, thanks for the response, even though I guess this post wasn’t ready yet.  In a way I’m not even sure I was going to publish it…but I guess I’m glad it got published.  I don’t even remember titling this “Will launch later” – strange.  Anyway, more complete thoughts to come in the future.