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Giving Grace to Others During the Pandemic

This week our society has reached one year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown.  Due to this anniversary, there has been a lot of media reflection on the past year and a lot of coping with the fact that life is not back to normal.  We have learned a lot about our families and loved ones as we have lost so many holidays and time spent with some, while spending way too much time with others.  Over the past year we have gone from loving our neighbors by dropping off groceries and leaving friendly notes to hurtful speech brought on by decision fatigue and disappointment. 

One thing that has been made abundantly worse by the pandemic is going to the grocery store.  It all started when we were forced to wait in lines outside no matter the weather, adding a good hour to the usual trip to the market.  Once you were finally inside, you could feel the tension creep up your back as you attempted to navigate around too many people wearing masks all sorts of ways, only to be massively disappointment by the empty aisles barely checking off anything on your market list.  Taking the three items you needed with the 20 others you felt you should pick up just because you were there and surprisingly the market had them to the register, you find yourself halfway down the frozen food aisle.  Conveniently, the store has a surplus of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream you’ve been standing in front of for 20 minutes and since your now stress you grab 4 pints and check out.  Not only do you have to bag your own groceries because the bag they made you bring in 2 weeks ago is contagious but the cashier is quickly attempting to scan your groceries without any attempt at conversation.  But let’s be real you can’t hear her anyways behind the plexiglass and the mask.  You finally make it back to your car after being told you used the wrong exit and your exhausted.  Every interaction you had seemed hurried or tainted with anger.  During a time of lacking human interaction, it seems like the small ones we do have never refresh us and often leave us feeling worse or self-conscious. 

I realized at one point that the problem is everyone is dealing with some level of disappointment.  Vacations, school field trips, and celebrations were all canceled.  Work and life have been reconfigured and not to suit our desires.  No wonder the market is a horrible place.  It’s filled with disappointed, stressed out people who do not have to think about you and don’t. 

This realization showed me, first, how prideful I am in thinking these other people need to think about me during their marketing so my life might be easier.  It also showed me a need for grace.  I needed to give others grace and each person is battling a laundry list of have too and disappointments. 

My list might have seemed greater or longer but the pandemic taught me it is not a contest for the most inconvenienced.  Everyone has been inconvenienced, in multiple ways, nothing is going as planned.  Everyone needs grace.  I often think of grace as something seen only in big gestures, maybe that is because the picture God gives us of grace is so immense.   

We hated God when He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth.  I ran from Jesus as He died on the cross for me.  And yet He saved me, giving me something I could never achieve myself, taking on the wrath of God I truly deserved.  Yet the grace we give to others, even the smallest act of grace points to God’s grace towards us.  It is how we reflect His love. 

As we pass the one-year anniversary of the pandemic and face the unknown future of disappointments, let us strive to give grace to family members who have driven us crazy for 12 months. To those who cut us off with their shopping carts. And to our fellow Christians struggling with navigating praising God and submitting to earthly authority.  We can give up our rights because Jesus Christ gave up all his rights for us.

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Grace and Truth

Grace Truth

I was recently listening to The Mockingcast podcast, where the discussion was about a column by Heather Havrilesky in the Ask Polly segment in The Cut. The Column is entitled, “I Want My Family to Love Me Unconditionally.” Just by looking at the title, I think we can all identify with the reader who wrote to Ask Polly.  Don’t we all want to be loved unconditionally and isn’t family the most likely place for that to happen? I always said that siblings were God-given best friends. Since they are family, siblings should have to love you and work things out.  Unfortunately, we live in a sinful world and often families are not immune.  The reader feels her family has isolated her from her extended family due to an argument 35 years ago which has led to her feelings of depression and bitterness. To add to that, she was an only child.  Heather Havrilesky addresses the reader by posing a question. Heather Havrilesky requests the reader to put “all your intellectual efforts and your narratives aside for a minute and open your mind to one thought: What if I’m wrong about everything?” 

As Christians, we need to be people of the truth amongst a world where there seems to be no real truth.  In our postmodern world, the truth is often claimed to be relative and one’s own narrative conquerors all.  This is why the question seems so shocking coming from a secular writer in 2021.  It seems to actually admit that maybe there is one truth and your assumptions are not always correct. Heather Havrilesky does admit that allowing yourself to ask this question opens you up to a terrifying conclusion, “That you might be wrong about every single thing you’ve concluded about yourself and the world.” As believers, we can praise God that he has allowed us to know the truth, through His word and the Holy Spirit.  Which means the question is not as terrifying for believers, because God’s word is truth and that truth is knowable. 

Let’s set aside the cultural commentary for a moment and really look at the question from a Christian perspective. Although I know I am not wrong about everything because I have the truth of God’s word, I often jump to conclusions and assumptions.  I can easily assign motives to people based on their actions towards me.  If we are honest, we all do it and since valentine’s day just past we talk about relationships. I recently had my first child in December, a little boy named Calvin.  My husband is so in love with him.  When he comes home from work he runs to hold him no matter where we are in Calvin’s daily schedule.  Now my exhausted, critical self thinks my husband is trying to make my life more difficult, especially when the outcome leads to Calvin waking up from his nap too early (because we all know if you open the door to the nursery, the baby can sense you and will start crying no matter how quiet you are). I feel that my husband has no regard for my feelings. I mean, he didn’t even say hello to me.  In reality, if you asked my husband, he just wanted to see his son, who he has not seen all day and he wanted to make sure the baby was taken care of so I could finish making dinner without worrying about changing diapers or comforting the baby.  He did not say Hello to me because I seemed busy and figured he would check on the baby for me before coming into the kitchen.  All valid reasons coming from a heart of love which I had assumed came from if not a desire to hurt me at least from neglecting to think of me. This is common in almost every relationship in our lives.  I can assign motives to my parents, in-laws, sisters, and friends. My husband likes to point out how practically every romantic comedy uses assumptions and misunderstandings as a major plot point to ruin a beautiful budding relationship.  What would happen if when we started to get annoyed at our sister for that flippant comment about our parenting style assigning motives of passive aggression, instead we stopped and asked, “what if I’m wrong?” Could we mend relationships, or even better stop estrangement and tension before it happens? Could we be humble enough to admit we might be wrong? 

We often want people to be different than who they are and place unrealistic expectations on them. Sometimes we do this without even telling the person and then are offended when they don’t deliver. I can’t expect my husband to know I want him to pick up dinner and flowers on the way home from work because I had a hard day without telling him. We want unconditional love in the way we expect it to be given based on our experiences and how we have seen love displayed but we fail to factor in that those around us do not have the same experiences or examples we had. As women I think we have this idea that to discuss how we want to be loved ruins the spontaneity and depth of the love.  If I tell my husband to buy me flowers on our anniversary then it’s not that he really wanted to, he’s just doing it. Step back though, doesn’t the fact that he listened to you, remembered and bought the flowers prove his love for you? We must stop comparing our romantic relationships to romantic comedies and instead focus on how God calls us to love, with Jesus as our greatest example.