2020: Grace

the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.

I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to wrap my head around grace. I have to re-look it up all the time. It gets all tangled up with mercy in my head, and things get murky. I’ve long  recognized that I’m not good at receiving or accepting grace. I’m great at giving it, but I’m a people pleaser and somewhere down inside I don’t think I deserve grace myself…or I think I have to work my ass off for it. I’m not super into the enneagram, but I fall into the type 2 personality, and reading a little more about it has helped me distill some of my feelings and struggles.

Twos are people who see the world through relationships and define themselves through their service to others. They may be selfless, loving, and giving; or dependent, prideful, and manipulative.

Bingo. That’s it. I remember when I was younger and deciding what I’d be “when I grew up” that when I considered teaching, it hit a very deep nerve. I don’t know how many times I’ve expressed my calling to teach as a way to “be useful” to people. Not to myself…to people.

One of the things I’ve struggled with my entire life is my weight. I’m overweight. I’ve always been overweight. Honestly, when I think on a list of priorities, it’s usually last. I prioritize my family, my work, my mental health, and the things I make with my hands, but my physical health just sounds sweaty and hard and like a long-out-of-reach goal. It’s the thing I need most in order to BE ALIVE but I prioritize it last. At my core I think I don’t deserve grace because I’ve wasted this body. It’s a deep, deep well of shame.

I’m also the person who will do a million things, innumberable projects, and take on a load of responsibility until I’m depleted. Absolutely broken down on the floor and cannot take it anymore.

As I was reading this post, The Enneagram and God’s Grace,” I was awestruck at the similar feelings Erin Strybis expresses.

What I could see more clearly is that I often adopted the role of Martha, helpful to a fault, never stopping to rest, because I was desperate to earn love. Face to face with my sinfulness, I wallowed in self-loathing. I didn’t want to be a Two. In prayer, I pleaded with God, “Help me be different.”

…and…

Wiping away tears, I now know why Lia wanted me to listen to this song. Up until that moment, I hadn’t allowed myself to celebrate my strengths as a Two. Each Enneagram personality, in its most healthy expression, reflects an aspect of God’s expansive love for us. In the case of Twos, we offer boundless generosity and unconditional love.

The truth is, I’ve always ached to love and be loved, but I wrestle with loving myself. Hearing my own melody helped me see my innate holiness—made in God’s image, blessed and broken, sinner and saint.

WHEW! That’s a lot. Several months ago, I was writing in my journal and mulling over grace and shame and all these big theological, emotional ideas. I could, and will, post on shame sometime, but I live with a lot of it. It’s been crippling at times, and I filled five pages of my journal with things I’m ashamed of. That exercise was rough, but it was also freeing. It allowed me to begin letting some of that shame go and a little sliver of grace crept into its place.

I listened to the song Strybis mentions in the quote above, “Two” by Sleeping at Last. Like her, I had a very emotional reaction to it.

Sweetheart, you look a little tired
When did you last eat?
Come in and make yourself right at home
Stay as long as you need
Tell me, is something wrong?
If something’s wrong, you can count on me
You know I’ll take my heart clean apart if it helps yours beat
It’s okay if you can’t find the words
Let me take your coat
And this weight off of your shoulders
What’s so amazing and striking in these lyrics is the realization that in listening, I can’t tell the speaker apart from God. I can’t tell the TWO apart from God. In short, I haven’t allowed myself to experience the good of my personality and willingness to give, and I don’t allow myself to freely accept grace. Strybis wrote it best, “Face to face with my sinfulness, I wallowed in self-loathing,” and “The truth is, I’ve always ached to love and be loved, but I wrestle with loving myself. Hearing my own melody helped me see my innate holiness…”
I have to lighten up on myself. I have to prioritize myself. I have to climb out of a pit of shame. For a few years now, I’ve done that thing that’s popular now where we choose a term or a guiding idea for the year, and this year is grace. It’s going to be work to accept it, but it’s worth the work required.

 

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