I was sick – again. My asthma flared at Thanksgiving when we’d had some interior home painting done. Then, after Christmas my asthma flared again after I rented a car that had an overpowering fragrance. I don’t get sick that often so in addition to feeling exhausted and sick, I was frustrated as well. I’d started an online class and while I’d read the assigned chapters and watched the instructor’s videos, I couldn’t find the strength to sit down and answer the discussion questions. It was only week two of the course, and I was determined to finish the homework. I even emailed the professor and told him I was going to be a little late, but I promised to complete the tasks. On Monday of the third week of class, I still felt awful physically and realized that if I didn’t start on the new week’s assignments, I would get so far behind, I wouldn’t be able to catch up.
At that point, I decided to take the professor up on the offer he’d made at the very beginning of the course: we could choose not to answer the discussion questions for two of the ten weeks. I’d known the whole time I was ill that I could fall back on the professor’s offer, but I didn’t want to do it. I thought I’d be a failure if I didn’t complete every single assignment. I felt like I’d be lazy and taking the easy way out if I didn’t finish everything. When I finally recognized that I couldn’t get the work done because of my sickness, I surrendered. I surrendered my desire for perfection and my tendency to beat myself up for perceived inadequacies. I accepted the kindness the professor had already provided.
The experience provided me with a reminder of how God offers grace to us. God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace are always available to us. But we struggle to accept it. We feel like a failure for our bad choices and beat ourselves up for our mistakes. We carry the heaviness, fear, and shame with us. We insist on shouldering the burdens alone because we don’t feel worthy of God’s grace.
We refuse the comfort and peace that can result from claiming God’s grace. We don’t take God up on the offer to walk with us through the difficulties or consequences. God often provides that grace and comfort through our friends, family, and community. Instead of agreeing to let them help though, we may isolate and try to go it alone. If we accept help in our times of hardship, we are accepting God’s grace.
Surrendering to God’s grace is not necessarily easy. We must get out of our own way and understand that when people offer help that is a form of God’s grace. God’s grace for us already exists and is ever present. All we need to do is accept it.