This week, I’m in southern California visiting one of my college friends and her two babies, ages 2 and 10 months. I would have liked to say that I knew what I was getting into when I signed up to come visit them for a week. That I was somehow prepared for the endless chaos of a house full of squawking and dribbling drool, of regimented nap and snack times. That my young single-dom would not to be ruffled by the goo-goo-ing senseless-ness of an infant and the trifling precocity of a toddler.
But let’s face it: I was not. At all. Ready.
All parents know this drill: I have been vomited on, spit on, disobeyed to my face, constantly blindsided by needs – and my stay’s not even half over! It’s a traveling circus act, this parenting gig, and I honestly have no idea how anyone does it, much less goes into it willingly. My respect for all you (especially young) parents out there is full to the hilt. It’s pure, overwhelming chaos. And yet… I have to admit, one of the most peculiar things about these days in pandemonium is this strange but prevailing grace. Thrown in among all the screaming and squawking is a heavy dose of loveliness, of tranquility — it’s so subtle that I barely know how to put my finger on it with a word, yet so thick here in their house that you’d have to be blinded three times over to miss it. There is the daily satisfaction of just being alive, breathing, fed. There is great peace in these lowly quarters.
Ever since I started dealing with chronic pain over a year ago, I have been struggling like a tigress to keep my head and heart above it all and trust God with what matters. It has been exhausting, like treading water inevitably is. And, if you’ve kept up at all with me in the last few months, you’ll know that I have in every way basically given up and failed. I couldn’t keep going on this long, hard marathon. With each passing day, God became farther and more demanding, ever more distant the more that I sought to trust Him with my dreams. Faith shriveled up till it was hard and puny as a walnut. I never thought that the day would come when I would give up on God, but let’s face it, it happened. Sometime this past summer, or late spring, maybe. I had never felt more like a lonely failure.
But the truth is, what I gave up on wasn’t God: it was the trying. Trying to understand God and His ways when I simply couldn’t. Trying to believe in promises that seemed flagrantly impossible. Trying to hold on to a shadow of faith and self that were no longer big enough for the reality of my life. I had to, had to, give up on these things, God seemed to say, so that I could let go and let Him remake me. I have to fail to bask in grace.
That’s a lesson I’m learning in spades everyday now. Reformed theology makes some sort of distinction between “common” and “saving” grace – the latter is the kind that leads to salvation in Christ, while the former is “just” God’s grace for the entirety of creation. It’s the kind of goodness that He lavishes on life and people simply because He is good and He loves. Now, I have no intention of implying that saving grace is any less awesome than the other; however the pie of grace gets cut, it is, all of it, simply grace. And these days in Leslie’s house, given up on trying and failed at failing, I bewilderingly find myself immersed in the healing pool of common grace. I don’t have to look anywhere to find it; it finds me. Somewhere between snackies and swings, I am ambushed by it. Knocked off my feet while I hold the toddler’s hat as she shows me her puzzles. I find it welling up inside me when I do simply nothing, nothing at all. I float on the waters of God’s love for me. Amid diapers and giggling and storybook time and constant crises — everywhere there are scattered such soft and indelible seeds of my God’s grace.
Such truth and such beauty – I had no idea He could be so good to me.