Have you ever been given grace, but you weren’t expecting it? I have. Allow me to explain.
It was a warm September evening this past fall. I was doing too many things at once. I had taken on a kitchen project: putting up a backsplash. On a trip to Home Depot early that week for lightbulbs, I had been bitten by the home improvement bug.
In addition to sticking up sheets of tile, I was baking a cake to decorate with Gracie. Finally, in addition to the backsplash and baking, I had also decided to grill our farm share vegetables for dinner that night.
To recap, I was: sticking up a backsplash, baking a cake, and grilling dinner. Despite how crazy this scene sounds, I felt like I had it under control. I was managing the madness. It wasn’t until the next day that I noticed my mistake.
It seems that, in my haste to do too much, I had singed the deck when I opened the grill.
Immediately, I felt a wave of gratitude that things hadn’t been worse, that I hadn’t burned the house down. However, this feeling of relief was quickly marred by the sting of shame. I knew better. I was so proud of myself, portraying myself as supermom that night; my pride got the best of me and I took on too much.
Showing Jon what I had done, after I spent the whole evening prior touting my supermom skills, was humbling. With sobering silence, I lead him outside. I pointed it out. I waited for him to be angry.
But he wasn’t.
“It was an accident,” he said. “We can try and paint over it. Thank goodness it wasn’t worse!” That was it.
In a situation where I had royally messed up, acted irresponsibly, and I rightfully deserved a reminder about the dangers of stretching myself too thin, I was instead given an unexpected pass. I always knew that I had married a generous and kind man, and maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at this reaction. Yet, I’m not sure if his reaction would have been my first reaction. In fact, he was being kinder than I was being to myself.
If our lives are choreographed performances seeking admiration from our perceived audience, each next step relies on the prior step being completed perfectly. We don’t build in space for errors. We aren’t kind to ourselves over mistakes, and therefore, it can be a surprise when other people treat us gently. We brace for the fallout, and sometimes, it doesn’t come.
This must be how my 3-year-old feels when she expects me to yell, but I don’t. When instead, I kneel down and get eye-level with her, we talk through her mistake, and together, we devise an alternate solution for next time. I hug her, I say “accidents happen.” This must be how she feels. These times must make her feel so good.
As we enter the holiday season, our steps become more measured than ever. Forcing ourselves to fit extra tasks into our already overly-scheduled lives, we often leave little space for grace. We sacrifice sleep and self-care for the sake of presenting perfection. We stretch ourselves to bake things we don’t need to eat, buy things we don’t have money to buy, and wrap things in paper that will just be thrown away.
Don’t get me wrong, this season we are in is so beautiful; my ultimate favorite time of year. But if we aren’t careful, we won’t leave room to model the gift that was extended to us so many years ago; simple and pure, perfect love. Perfect grace.
And so I stand here, a victim of unexpected grace. I can attest to the fact that it is wonderful. And I can’t tell anyone else what to do, but I can hold myself to a higher standard. Because really, what can be the harm in rising above the moment? I intend to make grace a habit, not an exception. Because truthfully, there is never a bad time to rise to something better.
Thanks to Jen Lauren Photography for these lovely images.