Making Space for Grace

Making Space for Grace…

When I was a little girl I remember my Dad singing this rhyme to me, ‘Patience is a virtue, Virtue is a grace. Grace is a little girl who would not wash her face!’

Recently I’ve found myself thinking about grace a lot (and not the little girl who didn’t wash her face!). I’m a Christian, so I’m familiar with the word – some might say overly familiar. We talk about grace all the time, how God is full of grace and mercy, that salvation is all about grace, and how as Christians we should show grace to others. I can even quote the handy mnemonic; grace is God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense!

However, whilst I can say all the right things and believe that God is full of grace and mercy, do I actually make space for grace in my own life? What do I mean by this?

Confession time…I’m a perfectionist, I am constantly worried that whatever I do I’m not doing it well enough. Whether that’s in my professional life, my marriage, my relationships with family and friends; I am constantly haunted by this sense that I’m not good enough.

After several years of heartache and loss, in May last year our little boy Charlie was born. Like all mothers to be I had a rose-tinted view of what motherhood would be like. I think this was magnified by the losses that we had experienced, I put even more pressure on myself to be the perfect Mother and to enjoy everything about having Charlie because we’d waited so long for this and wanted it so much.

Needless to say it has not been like this at all! As those of you who are parents will know, having a baby is exciting and there are many precious and joy-filled moments but there is also a lot of relentless slog – where you just go round and round the same tasks day after day. Oh and then there’s the sleep deprivation! Added to this babies are little people with their own personalities and wills. So whilst I might have my plans in terms of how it was going to be, when Charlie would feed, sleep etc – Charlie often has very different ideas!

I was surprised by the way I felt after Charlie was born, the sense of “what on earth have I done, I want my life back…can I go back to the way it was?” I also felt huge guilt for having these kind of thoughts, particularly after all we had gone through to have a baby – this is what I really wanted right? So why wasn’t I loving every minute?

Increasingly I felt really anxious about everything, has he had enough milk/food today, is it bad that I’ve had to rock him to sleep, has he had enough sleep, have I played with him enough today, is it bad that I’ve had to give him calpol again!? Surprise, surprise I was bringing my perfectionist tendencies into motherhood! Basically all these questions boil down to just one question ‘Am I a good enough mother?’

To be honest I got myself into a real state where I wasn’t sleeping and I couldn’t get myself out of the spiral of anxious thoughts. I talked about all of this with some good friends who prayed for me. At the end of the prayer time they shared what they felt God was saying. The verse that was given to me is the famous one from 2 Corinthians 12:9 ‘my grace is sufficient…’

As I prayed about this later I felt God lead me back to one of my favourite passages – Matthew 11:28-30. You’ll know it but I am very grateful to Brian Draper for bringing The Message version of this well known passage to my attention:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get Away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

There’s so much I love about this passage but it was the phrase ‘learn the unforced rhythms of grace’ that I felt God highlight this time. As I reflected on it I realised that there was very little about my life that was ‘unforced’; I was working really hard at everything. Trying to be the best mother, wife, employee, daughter, sister, friend etc and it was exhausting!

Praying about this a few days later I felt The Lord say to me “you don’t rely on me and my grace at all. You do everything as if it all depends on you and your strength, there’s no space for my grace.”

What would making space for God’s grace look like? Perhaps it looks like allowing myself to not have to do everything perfectly, to ‘cut myself some slack.’ The Hebrew word ‘shalom‘ is often translated ‘peace’ but the root meaning of shalom is ‘to be whole or sound.’ If I think of wholeness one of my first thoughts would be that wholeness involves perfection. But is this true?

A few days ago my daily reflections were entitled ‘Better Broken than Perfect’ and were all about how you don’t have to be perfect to be whole, that wholeness means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. So perhaps this is what God’s grace looks like in my life, accepting the whole of me, weaknesses and imperfections included. In fact it’s in my brokenness and imperfections that there’s space for grace, and as the second half of 2 Cor 12:9 says it’s actually in our weakness that God’s power shines most brightly.