Is it possible to continually forget and remember and re-remember who you are throughout a lifetime? I have a series of sometimes competing narratives that I turn to to remember who I am. The scholar. The mother. The dreamer. The wife. The Christian. And the laundry piles up, and the whining commences, and there’s such a stampede of noise that it drowns out the big dreams, and the quiet and the moments to just breathe, to pause, to drink in the joy. Joy leaks slowly through a sieve of daily demands.
And instead of breathing prayers in and out with the reiterations of laundry and lists, it is so easy to turn inward. To make myself the victim of the story, buried under the demands of the day. To stack each daily task into a pile of bitterness or frustration or self-righteousness. A pile that glistens like gold and melts into dust when you touch it. “The grass is greener” only builds up, clogging the arteries of grace so that it flows, but flows ever so slowly.
And there are still drops of grace. Where I sense that behind the to-do list and the endless defenses I put up, that there’s a freedom that could take my breath away. Maybe you’re like me. But the freedom is about leaning into the hard, about opening myself up to such a potential of getting hurt, that it seems too risky, too hard. And so you (like me) only allow drops of grace to give you moments of recognition, moments of remembering where your identity really lays. Instead, you get stuck in patterns. Dance steps that are well worn through the years: attack, defend and hide. Or like wheel ruts that become so well worn that once the drops of grace come in to reorient the paths, the same tracks are so easy to slip back into. The dance step are comfortable. They’re part of you.
Because all those glistening promises were all about you anyway; they were all turned so inward that the mental tape of “you, you, you” just kept replaying and replaying and replaying until you believed it. That it is and was and was always about you. And when the gold turns to dust as it always does, you move on to the next shimmery thing. The next thing that promises real pleasure, real meaning and satisfaction. Real affirmation. Whether that’s love, or appreciation, or success, or pleasure. Losing those last 5 pounds so you can finally be in control and at your ideal weight; getting that corner office or your name on the wall; making A’s; having competent and gifted children. Or you lose yourself in pleasure, in experiences, in traveling or in great food or drink. And we circle around to the next shiny thing, erecting walls to hide behind, because we are so very afraid that we will be found out to be a fraud, found out to be naked. And so we cover our nakedness, not with the fig leaves in the Garden, but with a record of defenses at the ready, a bevy of excuses for “my” way. But it is a frantic, joyless grasping after something that is never in our grasp. And we are still naked of course.
Grace, though, is disruptive. Not like a “pardon me?” whisper but a freaking tornado that turns everything you thought you knew upside down and inside out and leaves you bare. Bare. Naked. Naked, and get this: unashamed. Can you imagine? Glorying in exposure? Not because you are perfect, but that because the wind has been knocked out of you, finally something beautiful and fresh and new can grow. Because God’s grace doesn’t look to your record, or to your perfect appearance, or to your lavish lifestyle to accept you. And yet, because of grace, our records we try to balance on to make ourselves into God or to get closer to God, aren’t held up to our noses to shame us. So that we walk away with our head bowed low and feel even more naked and ashamed. No, because of grace, we bow low and are lifted up.
So then, real exposure, real vulnerability in the face of grace is about telling our stories truthfully for the first time. Stories that are full of messed up dance steps where we step on toes and fumble through it or, conversely, where we have the steps so perfectly memorized and without a hair out of place, that we feel as if we were accepted because of our performance. Stories where we really show our weaknesses where we hide behind perfectionism, charisma, or lavish enjoyment. Stories of brokenness and redemption. Stories of confusion and honesty, where we all see through a glass, darkly, together; as we retrace and relearn together new steps; steps that feel childish and out-of-tune and yet are true because they acknowledge our despair and do not leave us there. They invite us into the dance, a dance that takes your breath away as you are caught up face-to-face with Grace himself.