Perfect Grace

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It was rainy and cold but we decided to meet for FroYo anyway. Accountability is no joke (and FroYo, even less). I only wished I could embody the carefree spirit that a cup of ice cream typically inspired. Moving the melting remnants around the bowl, I tried to cover up my sigh with a worn-out smile.

There was no denying the cloud hovering above my head. And sucking me in.

I wanted to put on the familiar old smile. Glaze over the pain; the fear; the crippling taunts of the unknowns.

Ordinarily, I could. The pangs felt up to now were small enough to cover up. That pain that seemed so hard then stands as trivial compared to the giants I know now. Still, I got pretty good at pretending the ugly didn’t exist, at least for the span of a visit. I could dodge permeating questions, gloss over the heartache in my quick update before I dove into questions directed at and about the person across the table.

But lately, even I can see it. When I look in the mirror, I see a girl who’s undeniably scared.
And today, she saw it too.

Twisting the spoon in my hand, I confessed: “I’m not myself. And I hate that.”

Her head was cocked to one side as her face betrayed the culmination of her thoughts.

“No. You are still yourself.
You are yourself, experiencing grief. You need to recognize that in order to allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling.
Marissa, you need to give yourself grace.”

It’s always been one of my favorite aspects of my God. Undeserved favor. The beauty and very character of a God Who offers continual blessings—even beyond eternal salvation.

But it hadn’t occurred to me to extend grace to myself.  I felt too guilty about my own weakness. Strange as it sounds, I really did try to “live perfect.” Or at least look the part. I must have believed that if I was strong enough, I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain. Or share it with others. If I could just bottle it up, stuff it down far enough, it wouldn’t seep out.

Oh but friend, no one is impermeable.

And it suddenly struck me. There, in the middle of a dark downpour with my melted FroYo:

I’m not perfect.

(Sorry if you’re in shock, I should have prepared you for that one.)

I’ve always held myself to a standard of perfection. And that’s all good and well. I mean, it is Biblical: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). That’s a high standard. An unattainable one, in fact.

God knows that full well. He made us. He knows our limitations better than we do ourselves—but He doesn’t harp on them. Instead, He sees us through the lens of grace and intends us for betterment. And that continual improvement flows naturally out of a life that reaches for Him rather than a perfect version of our imperfect selves.

So, that means if you ask me how I’m doing for real, I might start crying. Imperfect people do that.
The update I give you might not offer any closure or happy endings. But it would be unfair to you if I continued to pretend that I have it all figured out. Or that I can keep it together when I’m feeling so scared and unglued.
Please understand that I don’t trust God any less. I’m just allowing myself grace in being honest about the fact that I have no idea what He’s doing.

All my life I have both strived for and expected perfection from myself.

Well, if my life has taught me anything lately, it’s that there is no room for perfection in suffering. Nor a need. It does no more than waste energy to pretend. When life itself seems too miniscule in view of the pain it’s subject to, there is no doubt that God alone is the only perfection we need. The only thing that exists. That remains.

Meanwhile, I’m just a venue. A vessel. Imperfect but full of grace.
Given and received.

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