That’s Why They Call It Grace

Ever have one of ‘those’ days? Maybe even several in a row? Or, God forbid, a whole week or month?  Everything goes wrong, therefore nothing is right—not even things that otherwise would not bother you.

Is this human nature? or is it just me…..

Consciously or subconsciously, in moments like that, I find myself asking God, “Where are you? What did I do wrong? Why…?” …You fill in the blank. I might even remind Him that the whole mess came about because I listened to Him in the first place, if I think it fits.

Remember the children of Israel, wandering around a mountain? They despised what they had–and it wasnt’ good–and begged God to set them free from bondage but then, when it was gone and trouble struck, they blamed God for taking it away. I left my Egypt a month ago and, less than forty days later, there I was wandering around that mountain, this past Monday.

I was still on the subconscious rebound of all kinds of negativity that people expressed to me in the days leading up to ‘the explosion’. I heard plenty of things like: there’s no jobs out there right now, and, good luck finding something–you’ll need it.

As I write this there’s a little voice in my head telling me I will be judged harshly…. I will lose the respect of the people reading this…. My ministry will lose credibility…. Still, I feel compelled to be honest. If my ministry flows out of pretences, it is nothing. So I will continue. To help you understand the background, I will go back to exactly one month ago, when we made a decision that threw us into a place of limbo.

Tim and I were settling down to sleep but I was feeling restless. Night after night I dreaded the next day of work. This dread and anxiety had started seven months earlier, in May, when it became apparent that manipulation and mind games were the ‘modus operandi’ at work. It took a bit to recognize it. The back stabbing, the undermining each other… the gossip… and all that goes with that.  In the summer, when I saw what was happening, I made a conscious decision that there would be no more mind games involving me. I determined to do my part to make our workplace a healthy, respectful environment.

Still, it seemed the damage that had been done was irreversible. I had shared concerns with someone from HR, following a meeting, and had shared with another person with higher level of authority who I felt might have some influence, hoping for help from the top down, but nothing changed at any level of impact.

When two staff members, including our manager, resigned within weeks and my co-worker became my manager, I vowed to make it a good transition and support her. For the first time in months I felt a glimmer of hope.

And then bizarre things began to happen and the stress hit levels I would never wish on anyone, and hope never to encounter again—especially as a heart patient, which made it all that much more concerning for us.

I tossed and turned in bed that night, one month ago, trying to settle . Finally, at around midnight, I asked Tim if he would pray for me and ask God for some sense of direction. “I don’t want to dread my job, day after day. I think I should resign. There must something better for me,” I told him. I asked if we could ‘test’ God and ask for a specific sign. Tim prayed but didn’t feel comfortable asking for a sign.

The next day was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It wasn’t that things were suddenly worse than they had been at their worst in the seven month period. It was the realization that things were not going to change. The problem was at a level higher than our local office.

Two of us were trying to do the work of four staff and I was still trying to catch up a back log that I had inherited with the position because the girl before me was always short-staffed as well. Management had never lasted long and in general staff turn-over was a constant. None of our staff had been in the office for much more than two years. In my year and a bit, managers had shared confidential information and documents with me that gave me good cause to believe things were not going to improve. And that was the history of the office.  I suddenly recognized that this stress would be my life for a very long time if I chose to stay.

That evening the doctor recommended I remove myself from the environment and take care of my heart and health. My blood pressure was much higher than it should be for a damaged heart and I knew the trigger–my workplace was the only place I was stressed. We took the doctor’s advice as the answer to the prayer we had prayed the night before and I submitted my resignation.

As the initial confidence of hearing God wore off, I began to question, not so much if I did the right thing but, if God was really going to come through. If I did my part, would He really provide for me?

When we follow what we trust is God’s leading, somehow we subconsciously, or maybe even consciously, expect God to reward us. Kind of like a little child who does a task for a parent and upon completion asks, “Now can I have a treat?”

That’s where I was at. I had done what I sensed I was supposed to do for my health and in the best interest of our family. Surely God would instantly and miraculously show me the next step.

God doesn’t carry a pocket full of lollipops. When we follow His lead and trust Him, we sometimes are required to trust through uncertainty. The next step is not always clear and sometimes that uncertainty goes on for a very long time. Other times, God teaches us something about ourselves and Him by answering more quickly. But seldom before teaching us a necessary truth.

And that brings me back to Monday morning. On the week that I would receive my final pay cheque, I was told by our insurance company that we had missed a deadline for a claim to do some work on our house. Suddenly this ‘trusting God to provide’ turned into a panic attack. No job. No income. Not a lot of jobs listed to apply for…

I remembered all the people who had, in a most hopeless tone, said, “Good luck with that” when I told them I was job hunting. I had even rolled my eyes at one who said it on the phone. Enough with all the negativity!

But on Monday morning, when it felt like everything was caving in, it was easier to surrender to those voices than to walk in faith. I replaced the phone on the charger, after speaking with the insurance company, and muttered a few words that I cannot print here. I shocked myself, but was too upset to care. My dog walked away.

In that instant my heart screamed at God, “Why did You get me into this mess? I would have a job if I had not listened.”

I threw a bit of tantrum, got upset at my husband, and even discovered that Tupperware cups don’t shatter on tile. After I apologized to Tim, I melted into tears. The stress of many months landed in a puddle at my feet.  I asked God to help me trust even in the messy of life and to help me through this.

The phone rang in the middle of all that chaos but I let it go to the answering machine. I later learned that it was the insurance company calling to say we had almost a year to submit the claim. My heart did a little ‘gulp’ as I realized that in an instant, based on misinformation, I had traded my trust for a tantrum.

For the next few hours I was occupied silencing the lies in my head and avoiding that personal attack trap. Why would God use me? Who was I to talk to women about freedom? About trust? About inner hope and healing? If I couldn’t even live it in a time of uncertainty, what would I offer the women  around me? And then I remembered Moses who broke all of the Ten Commandments at once. He should have had Tupperware Ten Commandments because I think he and I may have used similar force and frustration in expressing ourselves, but my Tupperware didn’t break. God continued to use Moses even after the tantrum.

And then the phone rang again. It was an invitation to an interview—a job I had applied for the day before I resigned from my previous job. I hung up the phone, standing at precisely the same place where I had earlier muttered in anger, and my heart sank again. “I’m sorry God,” is all I said.

Within two days I had an interview and within 24 hours of that I had a job offer.

Don’t think for a moment that God was like that mother or father in the grocery store who grabs the treat of the shelf, mumbles a ‘fine!’ and buys it for the child to silence him or her. No, God was teaching me something much bigger than any lollipop or grocery store treat could have done for me.

It was grace. I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t earn it. In fact, I had taken my frustration out on God when I should have handed Him the problem rather than trying to figure out how in the world Tim & I would solve it.

It was this grace that reminded me again that God uses us, messed up and broken human beings, and trusts us to represent Him in spite of our imperfections. He uses our responses and reactions to life’s circumstances to reveal places that we hold back from Him, places that He wants to heal.

My fear of trusting God is the result of inner unresolved issues stemming from childhood. By allowing circumstances that exposed this area, He offered me a chance to deal with it.

By offering me grace while I was still in that place of struggle, He showed me that I am still loved, that He is my Provider and that this entire experience of life has more to do with getting to know Him, and letting Him deal with my heart, than it is about any other thing.

Opportunities for transformation will present themselves throughout our lives. When we see who we really are we can become overwhelmed, shut down the truth and run, or, we can embrace the truth and invite God to change us from the inside out. I choose change. Not because I deserve it. Not because God owes me a second chance. But because it is a gift I am offered in spite of who I am. That’s why they call it grace.