“And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
John 1:14, 16
“What’s wrong, babe?” my husband gently asked me.
“Nothing.” (Lie. Nothing is almost always a lie.)
“Katie, I can see it all over you. Is something going on?”
“I don’t know. I’m just anxious,” I tell him, as I refuse to stop switching out the washer and dryer and make eye contact with him, like a passive-aggressive reminder that I work hard around here and I want him to notice that.
But he notices my heart. “Ok, what are you anxious about?”
And I know, I absolutely know what I am anxious about. I am anxious about being a mom. I am anxious about my son’s new hitting habit. I am anxious about the minefield of social media. I am anxious about the future. I am anxious about my writing, which I should probably quit. I am anxious that everyone hates me. I am anxious because there is so much to do, and never enough time. I am mad and anxious and my kids are hard and my work is crap and I feel politically and culturally homeless and everyone is yelling at each other and I hate conflict and I just feel so anxious! But that is not what I tell him. “I don’t know why I’m anxious.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.” Yes, I do. But I want him to work a little harder.
“Ok, babe. Well I love you, and I’m listening when you are ready.” And then he leaves the laundry room and I stand there with all of my self-justified reasons to be mad, and as I throw the last wet towel into the dryer and slam the door I feel it, the pang of conviction that always comes when I forget all of the most important things.
Grace. It is one of those words heavy with meaning yet thrown around lightly like confetti and unfortunately, it’s impact rarely seems to last much longer. We take it so lightly, this grace thing. We say grace. We ask God for grace. We like grace. But we are also very selfish about grace. We demand it from others when we feel judged and we tend to withhold if from others when we feel wronged. If I am honest, sometimes it feels like I can tend to carry grace around more like a gun ready to defend myself than like a white flag ready to fall to my knees at the reality of how desperate I am without it.
And y’all, I am so very desperate for grace.
This day, this hour, this minute.
The greek work for grace is charis. Isn’t that beautiful? It means “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech,” and my favorite, “the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in life, including gratitude.”
…its reflection in life, including gratitude.
I have had a hard time feeling gratitude lately, and much less of a hard time throwing out all of the reasons why I don’t feel it. One needs thirty seconds or less on social media these days to see one or two or three thousand reasons our world does not feel grateful either.
But I realized something about myself a long time ago: when my heart is feeling this anxious, this scared, and this self-centered, it’s actually a sign that I have not been paying attention to Jesus, and a clear indication that I have mistaken myself for the rescuer when I am merely, humbly, and of no merit of my own, the rescued.
And things get real ugly when I get those two things confused.
If I am the rescuer than this all depends on me: my children have to make me look good in pictures and in person or I am failing. My writing has to be good and high on approval every time or it is not worth doing. My precious little boy who understands the world so differently than the rest of us has to learn how to function well and, God-willing, on his own someday, or I have dropped this beautiful special needs assignment God gave me. And must I even mention the social issues I care so deeply about, the women dancing in clubs and selling their bodies, the unborn children who don’t get to live and the children born who are not adequately cared for; the oil pipeline that is unjust and the leadership that makes me crazy and did I mention it all makes me feel homeless?
And really quickly I see nothing to be grateful for, and a big to-do list to be mourning over. Grace has no reflection in my life, and I have no gratitude. Because being a rescuer is hard and don’t people see how hard I am working?!
Don’t people see?
Oh, if you only knew how many of my issues start there.
And yet I know the heartbeat of my anxiety: I forgot that I was rescued, and in that rescue, given grace. And as so beautifully put in the gospel of John and then explained by Matthew Henry: “it is ‘even grace,’ so great a gift, so rich, so invaluable. We have received no less than grace; the goodwill of God toward us and the good work of God in us… All believers receive from Christ’s fullness; the best and greatest saints cannot live without him, and the weakest and most insignificant can live through him. Because we have nothing except what we have received, proud boasting is excluded; and because there is nothing we lack that we cannot receive, our perplexing fears are silenced.”
Nothing we have except what we have received. Nothing we lack that we cannot receive.
I am not a rescuer. I am rescued.
All of us, we are rescued. And that’s grace, even grace!
There is much good work to be done, but we do not do it as rescuers. We ought not to think that highly of ourselves. The good in us is not actually us, but Jesus, but grace. And all I can think to do in response to that is beg him for more of it.
Maybe I feel homeless because this world isn’t home. And I know I feel anxious because I tend to add myself to an equation that needs no addition. But today, may what I say, how I speak, and what I do start here: grace upon grace.
“Hey babe, I’m sorry I used my heart as a reason to be frustrated at you. I just, I just feel anxious and I really do know why, but I don’t know what to do about it.”
And he responds so well. “Can I pray for you?”
I did not always receive that request well, not from my husband. I have spent a long time wanting to be heard and not prayed for, and far too often still default to that, we both do. But not when I know I am rescued, not when I see so clearly my need for grace.
“Yes, I would love that. I need it. Would you pray that every single minute of every single day, God would help me to remember that I’m rescued.”