Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Learning Grace

Written in July 2016. 

     Lately I have found myself thinking a lot about the lyrics to a hymn appropriately titled, "Servant Song." My dear friend Helen and I sang this song in church a few years ago as a duet, and it is a fond memory that I will always hold close to my heart. The verses that mean the most to me are below:

"I will hold the Christ-light for you,
In the nighttime of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you;
Speak the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping;
When you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we've seen this journey through."

     I have spent many hours, broken up into random fragments of time in the car or while grocery shopping or completing some other menial task, pondering the meaning of these words and how to live them out. I also think about how lucky I am to have people who weep and laugh with me. Friends, church members, teachers, and family have all stepped in at various times to make sure that I never felt completely alone. We all know the stark difference between a friend who watches you cry and a friend who cries with you, and I am grateful to say that I have had many of the latter.

      Singing this hymn as a duet with Helen was absolutely perfect in a million different ways. Several years ago I attended a youth group a summer camp even though I was very anxious about my health, and when I went I ended up flaring terribly. One day I barely moved from my bed and one of the chaperones next door with a medical background was sent in to check on me. Every time I tried to walk I was overcome with tears, both of pain and frustration. It was a horrible experience physically, but never have I ever learned so much about grace in such a short period of time. In the central room of the camp, there was a box where campers could leave short little notes about other campers if they wished. One night Helen left in the box the note below:


     As you can see from the picture, the note is still on my bulletin board at home today. Even though the board is cluttered with college information, souvenirs, postcards, artwork, and lanyards, I have never removed that note. It is only six words long, and the notecard is tiny, yet it means more than me than almost anything else in this world. That note was exactly what I needed in that moment. Helen spoke the peace I longed to hear, and uplifted me when I was feeling useless. It is strange thinking back on it now, but the summer camp situation was bad. My eyes were swollen from crying and I could not participate and I felt so incomprehensibly far from being an inspiration. I thought that everyone wanted me to go home, and I wanted to go home, and I could feel the heavy weight of disappointment bearing down on me and suffocating me. Even though the rest of that week was still miserable, thanks to that sweet note I felt a little more redeemable and lovable, and that meant the world to me. Helen is one of the most genuine people I know, so receiving such a heartfelt note from her made my world a whole lot better that day. It does not take putting someone's entire life on your shoulders to walk alongside them in a Christ-like manner; sometimes, it only takes a note. 

     I think we sometimes treat grace like it is an innate quality that some people possess and others do not. But I believe that this is an incomplete way of viewing such a large yet delicate concept. Grace is learned and practiced. We can actively decide to show someone love and to accept love from others every day. We can practice doing these things even when it is hard, even when it feels unnatural, and even when it is frustrating. We are all just learning grace, and the more we dedicate ourselves to this task the more fulfilling our lives become. 

     Thank you all for weeping and laughing with me. Thank you for all of your notes and kind words and encouragement. Thank you for supporting me and cheering me on. Thank you for your random text messages and phone calls, even when you felt awkward bringing it up. My joints may feel like crap, but my heart feels so full. 

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