Friday, January 4, 2013

Measure of Grace

One of the challenges of change is that while some things may change, not everything changes.  You have to figure out how you will handle the things in your life that are unchanging.

It's hard because so many of our daily dealings - our interactions, our destinations, our duties, our doings - are haunted by the memory of what used to be.  Before we changed.  And this world doesn't always recognize or honor a change that we've made.

I used the example of smoking yesterday.  Smokers who choose to quit lose friends.  The people they used to stand around the ash tray with no longer know how to relate to them if there's not smoke between them.  Can you figure out how, as a changed person, as a non-smoker, to maintain relationship with an old friend, if you truly care about them?

Those who choose to make amends with family or friends will still face doubt and questions.  Nobody believes you changed just because you say that you have.  Can you discover a way to continue pursuing reconciliation if the ones you seek to reconcile with still look at you that way?

Can you take the same drive to work if you remember the way that place on the corner used to tempt you beyond your strength?  Can you laugh with a friend or a loved one who doesn't believe in or disagrees with the change you're making?  Can you be around people or places or communities that do not value or honor your new way of living?

The truth is that you can change anything you want to in your life, but you will not in the same instant change your world.  You have to know how you will respond to an unchanging world so that the resolution you're seeking - and hopefully finding - in your own life will not be threatened by everything that is as it has always been.  You have to know how to do the routine, mundane, common things you still have to do - go to the grocery, attend church, drive your commute, sit at your desk, talk to the neighbors, watch television, check your email, whatever it is - without sacrificing the newness in you.  Without giving up what you're painfully opening yourself up to achieve.  Without letting go of your promise.

May I recommend grace?

Grace is the ability to say that what the rest of the world chooses to do does not affect what you have given yourself to.  It is the ability to look at another person, even when you're incredulously wondering why they still treat you like you used to be, and realize that it has so very little to do with you at all; they are being who they are.  Grace lets them be who they are and lets that be ok, too.  Because it is by grace that you are who you are, even who you are choosing to be, even changed as you are choosing to be.  So grace just kind of gives that out and lets other people, and places, be what they are, too.

If it's that important, then by grace, you will find a way to honor both yourself and the other - be it a person, a place, a memory, what have you - without either giving up or giving in.  There are so very few cases where this grace just wouldn't work.

That's kind of what I was fighting with my yes and many nos.  It's kind of the battle of change.  It's that I found myself - and you find yourself - in a situation where there would have been no question if I gave up my promise to engage as the circumstance would have expected me to engage.  But I was not willing to give up my promise for the moment, not willing to set aside change for a chance.  So what I was wrestling with was how to bring a new self, a resolved and reconciled self (ok...still pursuing, but on the path), a promised self into an unexpected but familiar moment that was waiting on me as I had always been.  I didn't want to do it that way any more.  In honor of the promise, I couldn't.

You know, I kind of got a little excited, even as terrified as I was at the opportunity.  It's exciting to know in your heart what difference is, what change is, and to feel it tangibly in your skin and to think about what it would look like to bring that new into an old place that really, when you're looking at it, hasn't changed a lot.  You can't expect it to change.  But you do sort of change it by bringing change into it.  That's exciting!

Just take a full measure of grace.

Do you have grace for the unchanging?  What would it mean to your promise if you did?

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