This morning I am thinking of the multiple faces of grace, one of which is traffic tickets.
First day of finals week my last semester after baking for thirteen hours straight for a bake sale and not sleeping and running on stress and anger I ran a stop sign on purpose. In all my four years of college, there has never been a cop at that intersection, but this time, the one time I didn’t stop, there he was, waiting for me.
I had planned on writing two papers that day, but spent an hour staring blankly at my computer screen through watery eyes. I packed my bag and walked and prayed, clutching a ball of tissues in my hand. Here I was, on the threshold of adulthood, wanting to prove myself strong and independent and responsible, and failing, so soon, so tangibly.
The tears subsided; I called my parents finally, and their voices and words held no judgment or blame or anger towards me, just grace, forgiveness, complete acceptance.
The past few days my mind has been an impossible knot of memories, images, emotions. The words that slip from my mouth reveal themselves to be half-truths, meaningless. But this story keeps surfacing in my subconscious, as though there is some metaphor within that will be the key to unraveling these lies, this knot in my head and my heart.
It seems this scene has been reenacted for me over and over in small ways the last few weeks. I am amazed by how thoughtlessly I hurt the ones I love the most, by my tendency to always say the wrong thing and leave so much undone. These people I have taken for granted, taken advantage of, treated unwell—they meet me daily, time and again, with so much grace, so much forgiveness, so much patience, loving me in spite of myself.
I am humbled. I deserve none of it. Even more, this grace leaves no room for guilt or shame or self-pity; instead, it makes room for healing and growth, pronounces you clean and lovely and perfect, even when you are bruised and bleeding, with scars of infidelity disfiguring your face.
Mumford and Sons, in concert. I expected to come out refreshed, renewed, and empowered; instead, I came out weary and emotionally drained, hanging fragilely to hope. With each song, they took my heart, ripped it into slivers, then pieced it back together again, singing truth that burrowed into the depths of me, calling up forgotten memories and emotions, ringing my soul. I prayed their lyrics as they sang, shades and layers of new meanings emerging and fading. Yet somehow, their words, their music felt too small for the room, the truth they were getting at too evasive, too large to fit into letters and words and sounds and chords. And it was too much for me to hold inside my small, fragile being, made me feel lost and little and afraid and lonely, paralyzed, incapable not only of living, but of facing anything—the world, home, my friends, myself. There is so little that I understand, so little that I can do; I cannot even look inside myself and into my past and understand who I am or how I have arrived here. What good can I bring to a world that is starved for significance?
But beneath it all, I can sense the Spirit at work. And I am seeing not only the mysteriousness of how she works, but the complicatedness, the paradox. I can feel the numbness slowly slipping away, replaced with something that feels sad and heavy and difficult but at least it is honest and real:
Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.
For Christ came to save the weak and wounded, the broken and the battered: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” Yesterday and today, I have been practicing being not okay, letting all the sadness and pain I have denied flood in. And I think I am beginning to catch a glimpse of the mystery, swallowing in small baby-sized bites of meaning these big inscrutable words—faithfulness and absolution and love and rest and peace.
Lord, I curl in Thy grey
that swings by one
elastic thread to thin
twigs that could, that should
break but don’t.
I do nothing, I give You
nothing. Yet You hold me
minute by minute
Lord, you provide.