Last week, I had a really ugly, beautiful conversation with a friend. She may have no idea how ugly it was for me, since it was just comprised of sweet texts throughout the day. But she spoke the truth in love over and over, hitting tender spot after tender spot. She challenged me to extend more grace to myself and others this year, as I explore my other goals and resolutions. After our talk, I realized just how much I don’t do those things on a daily basis. But instead of feeling beat down and discouraged, I felt so much hope. I can do this. Nope, scratch that. Christ in me can do this. Let’s give some grace, y’all.
Fast forward to this past Tuesday, when I received a little certificate and prize at work for “perfect attendance” for 2013. It’s one of those silly-but-also-important ways my floor recognizes its teammates for their hard work and commitment. I left that night feeling a sort of smug satisfaction. Definitely pride. Not in the sense that I wanted to be paraded in front of my coworkers (I actually dread that sort of thing), but this internal Darn right, I had perfect attendance. Because I don’t miss work. I am dependable. I am loyal. I have a lot of kids and I have a lot on my plate, but you can count on me.
And then the very next day, Chris got sick. Like, stomach bug sick. And I knew he wouldn’t be able to care for himself well, let alone the kids, the next day. So I had to call out of work, ruining my perfect attendance for 2014. Just like that, it was over before the year even started. For the first few hours, I was angry. I was bitter. I worried about what my coworkers would think. I worried that the rest of us would get sick. I actually thought, why couldn’t this have happened during my days off this week?
Ridiculous, I know. But I seem to have made a habit out of acknowledging that I can’t control everything, and then trying to control it all anyway. Looking back on last year, there were times when I probably should have called out of work and didn’t. And if I look beyond the hospital, there were times when I probably should have said no to something, or yes to help, and didn’t. Because I seem to have figured out this twisty way to preach grace… and still muscle a works message into my lifestyle.
As the hours progressed that evening, we started dropping like flies. Kid after kid fell victim to the bug (a super fast one, might I add). I managed to fight it off until after they went to bed, but eventually it hit me, too. At my lowest, curled up on the couch with the realization that I couldn’t have gone to work anyway in that state, I felt a convicting peace. It was okay to call out of work before the sickness hit me. This is what grace feels like in action, I thought.
I can’t control everything. Not even the little things. I can’t keep my family from getting sick, even with that pharmacy full of vitamins in my cabinet. I can’t always have perfect attendance at work and elsewhere, even with my no-quitter attitude. I can’t answer all of the emails at once and I can’t join all of the groups, even with my desire for community. Here’s the thing though – I don’t have to do any of that. When I stop forcing, when I stay soft and pliable, that’s when His gospel power gets the work done.
Even though this hard work message is one the Lord has given me, it’s a dangerous line to walk with a personality like mine. There’s a constant fight to keep the balance between grit and gospel. I’m up for the challenge, though, and I’m grateful for the times He brings the New Year’s resolutions to my doorstep… even in the form of a stomach bug.