Monday, February 23, 2015

When we make mistakes: Grace is the flipside

Recently I made some big mistakes, both in my part time job as a teller at a bank, and in my writing. In both cases I was corrected.  Not unkindly or in an overly harsh fashion, but the errors, and the need for me to improve my performance, were brought clearly to my attention.  As a result, I am feeling mortified.  Sick to my stomach, increasingly nervous, having-a-really-hard-time-shaking-it mortified.

Today, following the past few days of these mistakes brought to my attention, I just started feeling worse and worse.  I tried going for a walk, praying with my husband, and journaling, but in the end I developed a migraine.  I took my super migraine pill and went to bed for the afternoon.  The pain has subsided, and is holding steady at sharp-behind-one-eye but bearable.  And now I am writing this.

I've always known I wanted to write.  Back in third grade, I told Mrs. Wetzel, my favorite teacher ever, that when I grew up, I wanted to be a writer and an artist.  And have six kids and live on a farm in Nebraska a la Little House on the Prairie, but that part of the dream was revised over the years. The writer and artist part remains true.  But until very recently--and I am in my 40s now--it simply didn't feel like it was time yet.  I would get bits and pieces of things, poems mostly, once in a while a little sketch or an idea for a painting.  But it didn't feel right to pursue these things in a disciplined way.  My children were younger, our life in ministry was very, very full, and though I didn't know it for many years, much of "me" was taken up with trying to contend with the unseen consequences of trauma from my past.  It was a big accomplishment for me to stay OUT of depression and get through the day without blowing it with my kids, who are more important to me than any artistic feats I will ever accomplish.

Now it does feel like the right thing to focus in a more disciplined way.  This blog is a step in that direction.  It is not a "finished product", like a book should be.  This blog is about the process.  It is about living a life of faith, hope and love openly and honestly before God, and before and with others, too.  Pursuing the "good" and faith and God, given the unique set of factors that add up to this particular life I have been entrusted with.  Hopefully in the end, something beautiful will result. Something that is a blessing to him and to others.

So, as always when it comes to the challenges life throws in my path that threaten to overwhelm me: Back to the things that I know are true. Giving way to feelings of mortification and shame, to the voice of condemnation which is never from God, will not result in anything good.  The only thing to do is to step back and regroup.  To take an honest look at the situation(s), and do what I can do to improve matters.  For the writing, I can withdraw my book for a short time, fix the errors, and re-list it.  Not the ideal publishing strategy, but it is not the end of the world, either.  This is my first book and first effort at publishing, and I'm learning as I go.  For the job, I can take the encouraging advice of my boss to heart, and stay focused when I am at work.  I really have been trying to do too much, and that is another thing to consider.

Whether I am writing or parenting or at my job, I am doing what I do before the Lord.  Like most people, I'm generally doing the best I can.  Because I am human and fallible, sometimes that "best" doesn't look so hot.  Jesus sees the cluttered mess of my life, looks deeper than the mistakes, and sees the good.  And receives it.  This is called GRACE.  And oh, there is real comfort in this.  A calm-my-stomach, ease-my-migraine, bring-steadiness-to-my-swirling-thoughts relief.

This grace, along with the knowledge that in the very end, things really will be all right, is maybe the best part about being a Christian.  It is a very different way of perceiving and functioning than what we grow used to in the world.  We often do not extend this grace to each other, or to ourselves.  It is not easy to un-learn the habits of competition, one-upmanship, and harshness that spur us on to success.  But I am trying to learn new ways, trying to live in to the grace and love which I know are true.