Reading back through the last few days, I feel like I came across a bit accusatory. I wrote the words and found myself saying to myself “but what if I’ve been through X?” and “who does this guy think he is?” I’m always imagining how other people might be reading my words and telling me how I’m wrong. I think that way because I do that when I read other people’s work sometimes. It’s something I have learned to use as a way to word things so that people will listen, but it wasn’t always like that.
I’ve always wanted answers. When I was a kid I wanted to know the rules of life. How do I get into Heaven? I was an acolyte in the Lutheran church, and there was a crippling fear when it was my week to serve that if I messed things up, the whole service would be forsaken by God. I hated doing it for that reason. I wouldn’t do anything without the pastors nod first.
As a young adult I found the answer of how to get into Heaven. Well, one groups version of the rules. Every week I waited for the pastor to give step by step instructions to the unsaved in the crowd for how they could get saved like I was. Inevitably every week, I found myself having to stop myself from running to the front to clarify what he meant or add my two cents to each step. I also wanted a script for how to “share the gospel”. I wanted a flow chart for every way the conversation could go. I didn’t want to mess up message and damn someone to Hell because I wasn’t clear enough.
I had supposedly found peace through serving in church and knowing that I had eternal salvation through Jesus, but in reality my thought life was in constant turmoil. I was worried about messing it up. I was fine though. Or so I was told, so I ignored my feelings and pursued perfection to maintain my status.
Now I’m pretty open about the fact that none of that really matters. I could have lit the wrong candle or tripped up the stairs to the altar or even gone naked on purpose under the robe and God would even bat an eyelash. And now that I have tried so hard for so long to get people to understand why they need Jesus, I understand that there’s not really anything I can say or do to convince them. I don’t even think the rules I was trying to follow apply to everyone.
When I read back and see what I feel is an accusatory tone, I know that it’s ok. I think what I think, and I know some of what I think is wrong, and I’m open to hearing that. I also know that everyone is someone else’s heretic so I speak my truth and move on. The mind blowing lesson that I had a hard time learning, and am still learning is that the tone isn’t accusatory. I just have a hard time being assertive. Also, I take myself to seriously sometimes. Don’t we all?
What I’m getting at here is the idea of grace. Grace toward ourselves and grace toward others. It has to start inside ourselves. It’s a hard thing to identify and admit our own faults. The oldest game in creation is the blame game. It’s much easier to protect my ego by blaming the other for something I might have had a hand in. As an idealistic person prone to perfectionism, I get it. When I started to see that I did indeed have flaws, and embraced them, it was like a giant garage door opened up and let light into my soul. This is the act of confession. Penance isn’t to satisfy some bearded old guy up on a cloud. It’s a time of self reflection. It’s a mode of getting a place of grace. The moment of forgiveness. What feels like wrath to the ego, is freedom to the soul, spirit or true self, which lies just beneath. (More on that next time)
Once we have put ourselves through the ringer and finally accept the grace available to us, the next step of granting it to others is almost effortless. I’ve realized as my own worst critic that I was the only thing that ever stood in the way of grace in my life. Once I know that, it’s just a puddle jump to understanding that others people’s anger is just an exhibition of the self reflection they have yet to do. My reaction is detrimental to both of us. If I mirror anger back, I’ve probably taken what was said or done personally. At best we’re angry at each other. At worst it escalates, and you can extrapolate from there. Or I could disarm the situation by seeing through the anger into the person. Extend grace. I love copping to my faults when someone accuses me of them. They’re usually right, and it throws most people off enough we can get to the heart of the issue rather than compare genital sizes.
Grace is something accepted and then given away. It’s moves out in concentric circles with each person who gets it. It starts in me, moves out to you. Or vice versa. The more of us who get it, the greater the probability for peace. Grace then peace to you.