Grace in Unexpected Spaces

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“Grace is God’s undeserved favour towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.”
An Anglican Prayer Book, 1989, Church of the Province of Southern Africa, pg. 438

H_Nicole

I’m learning to recognise grace in unexpected ways and spaces. Grace which leaves me breathless and deeply grateful, grace which calls me out of the darkness that my soul sometimes wanders into—into a light that warms me to the core of my being. This education of my eyes, and of my spirit, this learning to see grace in these unexpected spaces, also ushers me into encounters with an embodied God.

***

My face is, most mornings, the first she sees as she wakes for her first feed, and the last, as I lay her down for the night. Mine are the arms which lift her out of her sleep cocoon and hold her as she drinks lustily from her bottle, appeasing the hunger that wakes her. Mine are the arms that hold her steady as she wriggles excitedly when explores the world, and mine are arms that rock her as she eventually surrenders to the sleep.

My arms tell my daughter how much I love her.

In spite of the sometimes ridiculous early hour that she wakes for a feed.
In spite of her refusing to drink her bottle or finish her food.
In spite of her demanding, and needing at this stage, my constant attention no matter how tired I am.
In spite of her not sleeping for longer than 25 minutes when I need her to sleep for at least an hour.

The way I hold her tells her that all of this does not matter because ultimately I love her deeply.

And when she sleepily smiles at me in the morning after a good sleep and after her tummy is full, or when she flashes a grin at me at numerous times of the day, or when she shrieks in delight when I enter the room after a short separation, she is telling me that she knows she is loved. Her happy responses tell me that those moments when I was abrupt with her, or raised my voice in frustration, have been forgiven and forgotten.

Grace is a mother’s arms that gently hold and rock and feed and play and lay to rest. Grace is the sweet, adorable smile, and outstretched arms of my daughter that shout, “Pick me up Mommy! Pick me up!”

***

I fought ugly last night, hurling hateful and hurtful words at him, my anger like hot lava spewing from the volcano burning deep within me. He stood before me, perplexed at the intensity of the anger, quietly taking in my angry critique of the happenings of the day. He even agreed to take stock of his words in order to avoid me feeling criticised.

But as he spoke those words, I realised the ridiculousness of it. Why should he watch what he says, when I should instead ask clarifying questions rather than jumping to conclusions? Why should he walk on egg shells when I am the one who needs to acknowledge that I am struggling with adjusting to motherhood and mourning the loss of a lifestyle which I loved and in which I thrived?

I swallow my pride, along with a mouthful of humble pie, and apologise for my bad behaviour. And he enfolds me in his arms and gently tells me how much he loves me.

Grace is the spouse who overlooks unreasonable levels of anger, and uncalled-for reactions, and reaches out in the dark to hold you, to forgive you and gently kiss you goodnight.

***

Pain in my lower back drove me to call for an appointment with my Body Stress Release practitioner, desperately hoping she could see me. Over two sessions in one week, she gently worked on my spine. As she released the physical stress build-up that had been accumulating over the previous four months, she also invited me, through probing questions, to verbally process all the emotions that were surfacing with the releases. She even offered guidelines to enable me to further process all that was surfacing into my consciousness.

Grace is a practitioner who facilitates a therapeutic space, a holding space, enabling you to heal body, mind and heart.

***

I needed alone-time, time to gather myself after expending all my reserves since the arrival of my daughter and the two subsequent house-moves. I was tired, and emotionally drained. I called a friend and asked if I could park myself on her couch to do some writing and reflecting. We shared a meal and then sat on her couch, crying and sharing and listening to the curveballs that life had hurled our way in the last few months. After we had both emptied ourselves of what we needed to verbalise, she gave me space, paper and pens, and I nestled deep into the couch, and into the safe space she provided.

Grace is the friend who holds you when you feel like your emotions are too big to handle, the friends who offers you a comfy couch, a safe, quiet space and stationery to enable you to gather yourself and creatively process your stuff.

***

In their song, “Just Be Held,” Casting Crowns sings about how God holds us:

Chorus:

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held.
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place.
I’m on the throne, stop holing on and just be held.
Just be held, just be held …

Bridge:

Lift your hands, lift your eyes,
in the storm is where you’ll find me.
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart,
I’ll hold your heart.
Come to me, find your rest,
In the arms of the God who won’t let go.

I used to think God was invisible; I used to wonder what it would be like to feel God physically holding me. But now I no longer wonder about an invisible or absent God, because God is grace, and grace has been visible and tangible and holding me all along.

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