Last weekend I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber speak. I appreciate this woman so much because of the way she is able to speak her truth with no apologies. As someone who often apologizes for my thoughts or new ideas because they may not be widely accepted, she is a person I learn from. During the question and answer session of her talk, someone asked about how to show grace and related it to love…it was something of that nature. Nadia talked about how in church when we measure things based off of love, it’s easy to keep track of and not always in a positive way; for instance, “I am seeing many ways in which you did not love”. As humans we tend to keep track of ways we have been wronged, not seen, or heard and when we feel like others are not keeping up in showing their love. As churches, we do operate out of this “love all” mentality which is necessary and good, but maybe why we are hurt so easily. So, what about grace? We think grace sounds pretty and lovely, but really as Nadia said, it’s hard. We don’t actually like grace that much, because if we do, then we realize grace is for the people who wronged us too. Grace is wonderful when it is just for me, but I also need to extend it, knowing that grace is for all? That’s tough.
This is really one reason I decided to name my business, Grace Unbound. While I was in school studying sexual health my heart softened. I do believe, sadly, that I have been a person who keeps track and makes marks of those who have done me wrong. Sometimes maybe even blame others instead of looking at myself, but since becoming a Sex Educator, I don’t do that as often. To be honest it’s been hard for me because I really have had to look in the mirror at myself. I have had to realize that I need to make some important changes. I also think that I might have been quick to judge and think badly of people who made mistakes, especially of a sexual nature. That does seem to be what most yell and complain about in regards to sin. I always tried being the “good girl”, making very few mistakes and following a straight line. What I know now is that I have been hurt by many, but I also have hurt many in return, even while trying to always “be good” which, believe me, I have failed to do. What does “good” mean anyway?
My heart has softened from doing this work, because I see how much we need that grace. I recognize that so many of us have experienced some trauma in our life. We tend to do things or gravitate towards relationships, behaviors, or ideals based on past experience and hurt. The more I learn the more I open. Open to hear people’s stories and not treat them with judgement. So much of these aches in our lives, as I have written about before, play out in our sexuality. It lives within us as guilt and shame. This is especially true of the religious community or those who have been victimized by the religious community. It’s fascinating to me as I get older to see so many of us try to achieve an image of being “okay”, “fine”, and “good”. We remember our posture as we sit tall in the pew of church and hold our breaths as if we don’t want to be truly seen, but still seen. In a former sermon of mine I talked about how the church body is like stained glass. The stained glass in our churches represent us, the individually broken, who when coming together ideally out of love, care, and grace can be a masterpiece.
Each one of us is broken in some way trying to rebuild as we journey the spiral path of life. All of us need grace and we have to remember that all deserve grace. I listened to this podcast called The Butterfly Effect that fascinated me. The host of the show followed one person’s decision to create something and then follow the effects it had on others. The season was on the topic of pornography and it did a marvelous job of showing how we make decisions, how loss affects our lives, and how we reach out in strange and particular ways to have our needs met. I strongly recommend it. I do believe it will change you and will open your heart. My goal as a Sexual Health Educator is to offer grace and understanding. I hope to hear the stories of others and hold them with care. Then I hope to give them the space to learn, grieve, explore, forgive, and grow. The older I get the more I realize how so many of us just need care. We just need to realize that we will make mistakes, hurt others, be hurt, stumble, and fall back into patterns we try to avoid. When we have others around us who care for us no matter what and offer us grace, then that’s when we see the light in ourselves and others and we begin to change. We work on the hard stuff with courage and trepidation and we see the vision God has for this world. I believe this vision to be one of empathy, care, joy, pleasure, and most assuredly, grace.