I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately … probably because I’m in such need of it! Grace is one of those words that I have only recently grown to understand the meaning of. I grew up hearing the song Amazing Grace, but I didn’t really get it.
I think my problem is, at least in part, that I was shown so little grace throughout much of my life. Always fearing making any sort of mistake, I tried so hard to be “perfect,” which, of course, is not possible in this mortal body. As an abused child, my abusers would often set me up to “fail” and then abuse me as purported “discipline,” so I learned at a young age that it wasn’t OK to make mistakes.
One particular experience has stuck with me all these years. When I was in third grade (only 8 years old!), I begged the teacher to let me read a real novel for a book report. Sure enough, reading a book with over 200 pages at age 8 in the short period of time allotted proved to be too much for my little brain. By the night before the book report was due, I still had 50 more pages left to read, and my little brain couldn’t handle it. Instead of receiving grace, I received punishment and shame, with my abusers using my “failure” to complete my assignment as an excuse to inflict more abuse, telling me it was all my fault.
To this day, playing “beat the clock against” a deadline triggers my post-traumatic stress because of that experience, so I always work ahead and strive to complete tasks early. I know I cannot stay focused once the post-traumatic stress kicks in. What I learned from that experience is that it doesn’t matter whether I have completed five times as much work as everyone else. If I do not complete the task given me perfectly, I’m going to suffer.
I have prayed over what grace might have looked like in this situation. What if my parents had said, “I’m so proud of you for reading 200 page at age eight. Let’s cuddle together, and I’ll read you the rest of the book?” What if the focus was not on what I didn’t do (finish reading 50 more pages) and instead celebrated what I had done (reading far more than is typically expected of an eight-year-old child)? Yes, I missed the deadline. No, I didn’t do the assignment perfectly. But what if I was given the message that I was loved whether or not I completed the assignment perfectly? That’s grace.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling under the word, “Beautiful.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]