My spiritual life is rooted in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. I was baptized in that denomination as an infant. I was confirmed there at 14. At 16, after hearing the gospel according to Evangelicals, I was “born again” and left this heritage behind me. At the time, I believed that the Lutherans had it wrong and the Evangelicals had it right. Thus began my active participation.
I became a leader in the Evangelical movement in my high school and pursued that life of faith through college and well into my married life. It worked for me. It gave me a center, a locus of control, if you will. My life was all about Evangelical Christian faith and experiencing God here on earth. Then, God interrupted my leadership, threw me into a tornado of wildness and reshaped everything I ever thought I knew about God. Grace overwhelmed me in an unexpected place.
A psychiatrist at the Children’s Hospital Eating Disorders Program in Omaha was the vehicle of this first unexpected encounter with grace like I’d rarely ever seen it before. After our daughter’s intake, she sat us down to explain to us what she was really dealing with. As our chins dropped and we tried to catch our breath, she looked my husband and I in the eyes and told us that we needed to understand how traumatic our daughter’s premature birth and subsequent medical traumas were to her. She told us her journey to recover would be complex and take time. Then she went on to say that we had done the right thing in bringing her there and had actually done it just in time as she was admitted on the verge of a heart attack from electrolyte imbalance. I remember the room was small and quiet. I remember feeling the overwhelming emotions sitting there with my husband. I remember, grace.
That moment would define the next next decade of my life. Ironically my daughter’s name actually means FULL OF GRACE. Her being in our lives has made this true OF our lives. Everyday since that one has been full of the paradox of living in the middle of life’s greatest pain and deepest joy. I think that is my personal definition of what it means to actually live in grace. It is that space where, if you are open to it, God’s Spirit comes to you and gives you the courage to face your pain head on and without the whimpering victimization so common in our western mind. In this grace place, you are allowed full out wailing. You are allowed the freedom to actually say that some of the people in your life are down right mean in their righteous assessments of you. You can let them go.
When grace comes in the unexpected places, you find that within the walls of that room it is safe to feel…or be confused…or very angry…you can hold on because you have discovered that you are in the room forever with all that comes and goes in and out of your every moment. In Grace you are able to receive amazing gifts, first because you can actually see them but also because they are so abundant that you can’t avoid them.
Grace is life.