My Struggle With GRACE

Grace. It's something we talk a lot about in the Christian subculture. To an outsider, the word might feel a bit overused. It possibly is. Well today, my little mom devotional was on the topic of, (you guessed it) God's grace. I'm sure you aren't too surprised. (wink) But, it was on more than just that. It was also on a subject I'll admit I'm usually thoroughly annoyed by - another common topic of discussion within Christian culture: "our legalism." To be truthful, this topic has always secretly annoyed me. Not because it's not valid, because I've always (arrogantly) thought - "I'm not a legalist. I don't need a 5-step plan on how to stop being legalistic. Save that for someone who actually struggles with this!!" (Insert scrunched up, pouty 12 year-old girl face.) Well, then the inevitable happened, I got to the part about how "legalistic" we all are. (Can you feel my temperature rising?) The author said that we all struggle with thinking we have to be "good enough" to please God, to look good enough for him. And as a result we all struggle with feeling guilty. I thought - "I don't resonate with this. This is garbage. I don't do things just to look good for God. Who does that? I don't feel that I could ever actually 'earn' his grace. What could I ever offer to HIM? He gives grace to me. Apart from me. Or anything I ever could do. Why would I feel like I have to be 'good enough' for him?? That's the point of needing grace. Who thinks that??? I don't struggle with legalism. This chapter is lame." I furrowed my brows with annoyance and pondered skipping to the next chapter. But I read on anyway. I got to the next section. This part began to address how we as women and moms make lists. Whether we actually write them, or just keep them in our minds is irrelevant. But we literally live on to-do lists. And they aren't just regarding errands or chores. They also deal with the behaviors, habits and attitudes of our little ones. Areas we want to teach/train into, guide, shape. And similarly, the behaviors, habits and attitudes of ourselves. The things we want to change and shift about ourselves. And then, I read this: (and this sentence kinda knocked the wind out of me) "It is almost impossible to separate how we feel about ourselves from how we've done on our lists." Holy s@#%. That caught my attention. Stopped me dead in my tracks. Like a deer in head lights. My jaw literally fell open. I was like - "Oh wow. I DO struggle with legalism. Son of a gun." I do in fact define myself by how I've done on my "lists." Always have. And so (with great attention) I read on. And rather than paraphrase what I read, I'll share it with you directly. (It's that good.) This next bit actually brought me to tears. And still does. I'll share why in a second. "Picture Christmas morning with your kids. Think of that one incredible gift you can't wait for them to open. You wait, holding your breath as your child unwraps the gift. You can't wait to see the joy on his face! But as the paper falls away and he looks at the gift, sadness replaces the immense joy you expected to see. He looks at you and says, 'Thanks, but I just don't think I can really enjoy this. I'm not good enough today.'"

{from The Gospel-Centered Mom, by Sara Wallace} I'd like to now tell you why this affected me as profoundly as it did. Sharing this involves a great deal of vulnerability. But if you follow me regularly, you know I don't shy away from vulnerability. Though terrifying, I embrace it. Not really because I want to. Mostly because I feel called to. So here goes. It's summer, and naturally, people go swimming. I've been seeing lots of pool and bikini pics on social media lately. This sparks so much inside of me. If you know me, you know how much I dread summer. But it's more than being uncomfortable and sweaty, and having my feet and swell up like painful, oversized, hot-to-the-touch sausages, due to the heat. (True story.) Summer involves wearing less clothes, revealing more of our bodies, and the most tragic of all - donning a swimsuit. THIS is why I hate summer. I know most of you reading this are picturing what I look like and thinking to yourselves - what is she talking about? She's in great shape! She's crazy. You know something - even when I was a size 2 in high school, I didn't like my naked body or wearing a bathing suit. I cringed a bit at both. Seems crazy, right? Well - to me, my size wasn't where I placed any value. All I cared about were the things I didn't possess, that others did. I always looked at the other girls with their lovely, feminine physiques - their tiny, flat mid sections and curvy hips, with the "coveted" gap between their thighs. (All the things I wished I had!) And I thought - why didn't God make me like them? Why did I get stuck with THIS body? This giant rib cage (which makes dress shopping impossible), this puffy, pot-belly tummy that always looks a little bloated, this S shaped spine (I have scoliosis) which makes one side of my back actually stick out more than the other, these narrow, non-existent hips -- which as result means there is no gap between my thighs. (sad) But even if I did have wider hips, the thigh gap just can't happen on my "athletic" build. Not a chance. I have such muscular thighs that there will always be the unavoidable, Mogno inner thigh rub. (It's a thing!)

(Note - My maiden and now middle name is Mogno. We Mogno's have really muscular thighs. Lol. That rub. And chafe. It's not fun. But as I said, it's a Mogno thing... So you kinda just have to embrace it... And buy baby powder.) Ok. So now I've just shared some of my deepest, most embarrassing insecurities about my bod with the whole world. Why on earth would I do this? Well, I wanted to shed light on the moment (this morning) when I realized something truly profound. I realized that my seemingly lame chapter on grace and legalism actually DID apply to me. As I read those words, "Thanks, but I just don't think I can really enjoy this. I'm not good enough today," I wept. It hit home like a dagger in my heart. Because I realized that it is God who's given me the gift of my (though imperfect) healthy body. It is God who's given me the gift of the hot summer - when as a result, it's warm enough to enjoy a swim in the pool. It is God who's given me the gift of time in which I can actually enjoy partaking in such an activity like this, with those I love.

And it is even God who's given me such a childlike love for being IN water.

Did you know I spent my whole childhood in the water? On swim team. (I even went to state!!) Playing mermaid... Pretending to be Ariel. Occasionally forcing my little brother to join me in underwater "tea parties." Lol. (He was such a good sport.) Point being - I love being in the water. And much like the kid who refuses the gift on Christmas morning, I don't let myself enjoy it anymore. So back to the real point here - it is God who has given me ALL of these gifts. It is me who is choosing to flat out refuse them. And every summer that I dread, every pool party I refuse to attend, and more importantly, every time I look at my naked reflection, I say to HIM: "Thanks, but I just don't think I can really enjoy this. I'm not good enough today." Wow. So I actually DO struggle with legalism. The belief that I have to be good enough (and the enough part is determined by me, not him or even anyone else) to actually receive parts of God's grace. Every single day. Imagine that. I live like this. Maybe you do too. Today I'm deeply humbled. Moved. I'm not sure what to do with this new nugget of wisdom and understanding at this moment in time. Like most things in my life - it will require a great deal of further processing and reflection. But I certainly know what to begin praying about. So why did I share all of this and expose myself in such a way (figuratively and literally)? Because I know that so many of us are in this same battle. We've qualified our worth by something WE define. Our Lists: Our bodies. Our children. Our monetary success. Etcetera. And we live as prisoners there. Refusing to allow ourselves to truly experience, revel in, and be changed by God's all-transforming grace. I won't pretend to have the answer on how to change this in us. I don't have it. In truth - it's not us who changes us anyway. But acknowledging where we are is step one. Without that we can't ever get to step two. So let's start there. With a fuller understanding of our own struggle with grace AND legalism. Grace. What a gift. One that we most frequently turn away without even a second thought. Could you imagine what might happen if instead of saying, "nah, I'm good, I don't want that today," we said, "why yes, I'll take it!" ???

Xoxo... Sara

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