Grace Muscles and Confessions (Happy New Year!)

Grace Sign 2

Jesus loves me.

This I know.

2013 was what some would call a roller coaster year for me. There were high moments (signing two book deals, five years of marriage, finishing my novel trilogy, baby girl counting to 20), times when I felt like I could just throw my hands up in the air, let the wind find the tendrils of my Afro, and just fly.

Then there were the other times. The low, lows.  The nights I spent in the hospital and thousands of dollars in medical bills that came as a result of it. Areas of frustration in both my personal and professional life. As I think about all that happened, I have to admit that it’s hard for me to not associate all the “waiting on God” I had to do with the discontent I felt. The truth is, I’m not a patient “wait-er.” I’ll wait for God to move. But I’ll wait with anxiety and tiny unrealistic efforts to bide my time. Not good.  Not good at all.

But here’s what I’ve learned: It’s extremely important–critical, even–to recognize the season you’re in.  But, wait, you can’t stop there! You also need to know how to function in said season. 2013 for me was about strengthening. God  was tightening up places in my mind and heart that frankly, I never knew were loose. Or rather, I knew were loose, but thought that my lax in these areas were simply part of “who I was.” The bottom line? God spent 365 days strengthening my grace muscle. I absolutely, positively could not enter 2014 the same person.

We all have a grace muscle, you know.  Just like any muscle in our body, this part of us has moments of contraction (intense tension); moments where we are forced learn to extend grace to those who hurt us; those we don’t like, don’t care for, or disagree with.  For me, this state of contraction drove me to my knees in prayer. It kept me turned outward, praying for others and not necessarily my own needs always. God knew my needs and would take care of them. But He also knew I “needed” to get out of my head and over myself. By constantly allowing me to be in positions where I had to extend mercy and love when I desperately didn’t want to…well, that was one way to do it. Another truth is, this posture, this contracted state, actually showed me how much I was in need of God’s mercy and love and grace myself. That I wasn’t much different from anyone or any situation I was praying for. At. All.

My confession is this:

In 2013, I was…

a lover and a hater
a fantastic mom and a terrible mom
an outstanding wife and a down-right frightening wife
an excellent writer and editor and a sorry, throw-out-your-MacBook-right-now writer and editor
someone who spent too much money on some things and not enough on others
a health nut and a glutton
a meticulous house cleaner and slob
an uber-organized, deadline buster and a time management-challenged, procrastinator
a good Christian and a reveler in my own carnality
a person in need of forgiveness and a person who needed to forgive
a fearless fully actualized woman and a frightened, fear-ridden little girl

Oh, the paradox!

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9a NLT

Yes, the “working out’ of my grace muscle was not just about me releasing other folk from the grips of my grudges and unforgiveness; from my disdain and judgment. It was about seeing myself for real, for real and truly believing that the same grace I was learning to extend to others was there for me also. As much as I needed to be forgiven, it wouldn’t serve me at all to wallow in my failures, missteps, mistakes and poor choices of words–the ones on the page but more significantly, the ones that came out of my mouth.  I could repent AND run straight toward the gracious, merciful arms of God, allowing him to wash me in His love.

Thank God a muscle doesn’t just become strong because of constant contraction. Whew! In fact, it becomes stronger because of both contraction and release. I praise Him for release. For me, release was rest. It was the seasons of rest between the contracted parts of the my life.

Note: Rest does not necessarily mean no pain though. Especially if you have been–because of God’s will or your own hard-headedness–been in a contracted state for a prolonged amount of time.

Test this. Go ahead and contract your bicep and hold it there longer than normal. That jawn (like they say here in Philly) is gonna hurt even after you release it. You are going to feel it even though the muscle is extended. You’ll be better. You’ll be stronger. But it will be sore for a while.

Same here.

In 2013, I spent a lot of time dealing with a serious illness and ridiculous anxieties… and worse, the role I played in exacerbating it all (poor habits, high stress, etc).

I had to take several seasons of down time because of it.

So yeah, I was released. The activity of my grace muscle was released. But it hurt something terrible.

Healing is like that sometimes, I suppose.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9a NLT

I repeat this because it’s just as true in release as it is in contraction. And it’s something really important to remember going into this New Year. We are always in either a state of contraction (intense tension) or release (rest and healing). We are always in the position to give or receive God’s grace whether it is to others through the tough, contracted times or to ourselves through the restful times of release.

When God strengthens your grace muscle, it is time to rejoice. Why? Because it means he has some heavy stuff for you to hold. It means that he trusts you to hold His stuff. It means that He wants to use you and all your gifts to light the world.

So in light of my confessions above, here is my affirmation for 2014:

Do Better.

Because Jesus loves me.

This I know.

9 Replies to “Grace Muscles and Confessions (Happy New Year!)”

  1. So true! I can relate to the fact that I’ve had my share of a roller coaster ride in 2013 as well. Love your writing sis! Looking forward to more of it in 2014!

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