Four days in a row of a good parking spot right in front of our Chicago building. That’s some kind of record. In 3 ½ years of living here it has never been that consistent, that easy.
Our normal routine when coming home is to carefully unbuckle the baby from her carseat, hoping a city bus doesn't come whipping down our narrow street in hopes of making the green light, and stick her in the Ergo so I can wear her, keeping her safe. The two other girls are unbuckled and crawl out on the sidewalk side. Usually if we are lucky we can park somewhere on the back half of our block. But often times we find ourselves a block to the south of us, walking ½ a block east and then through the alley weaving around the cars and scrap metal trucks that fly through the bumpy alley road, along with the occasional rat that feasts off of the neighboring restaurants’ dumpsters, to get to our building. We then make it through the two wooden doors and catch our breath before walking up the four flights of stairs. My middle girl is usually whimpering at this point as her fatigue and her tired muscles are catching up with her. My goal is to make it into our condo before someone starts yelling or crying, usually me.
I have sat in my minivan each afternoon this week, touching just the hem of grace. Because I should not be able to park that close to our home. And that long routine that gets us home each day is one of the main reasons we feel pressure to move. Because it’s just so hard. And it’s not safe. And it leaves me on edge, and sharp, and a me I don’t entirely know, or want to know.
I shouldn’t be able to park that close. But this week, I have. And I hear Him whispering, “It’s all grace, even this.”
33 years of “Being a Christian”
8 years of private Christian school
3 years at a Christian college
An undergraduate degree in Religious Studies
12 years of working in Children’s Ministries
3 years on staff at a church
And I couldn't tell you the first thing about grace.
But I think I can tell you what it’s not.
Flipping through my Facebook feed as I wait in the car for preschool to end and I felt a tightening in my spirit.
“The grace of God is activated by actions of faith!”
Really? Really? And I know that if it were four or five years ago, I would have probably hit “like” and maybe even shared it on my own page. Because the Christian walk is so much easier to hold onto when we are the ones calling the shots.
But that was before the nine week old baby died, a teen lost his battle with cancer, a young mother died unexpectedly leaving two babies, and the youth pastor died in a car accident on his way home from work.
Because prior to that, it was all about faith. It was all on us. And until recently, between me and God, I thought it was my fault they died, because if I had more faith, and prayed harder, and been bolder, God would have moved and spared them.
The weight of that has been heavy on me until after a workshop when she came up to me and asked me what was stopping me. And the tears started coming so hard I couldn't breathe and I whispered aloud for the first time that I knew it was my fault. And she held my hands and looked at me the way I look at my girls. “Oh, dear child, God is so much bigger than we are. That wasn't in your control.”
This wild and unpredictable Kingdom living. This world where sometimes, no matter how hard you pray, things don’t turn out the way we hoped. But sometimes, things turn out perfectly and life is full of delicious, undeserved surprises that bless our socks off.
Not because we deserve it. Not because we deserve it.
Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel shares:
Our world is saturated with grace, and the lurking presence of God is revealed not only in spirit but in matter – in a deer leaping across a meadow, in the flight of an eagle, in fire and water, in a rainbow after a summer storm, in a gentle doe streaking through a forest, In Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, in a child licking a chocolate ice cream cone, in a woman with windblown hair. God intended for us to discover his loving presence in the world around us (89).
I want to see God move around me and in me. I want my sense of wonder back.
I have no doubt that I will spend my whole life and not come close to understanding grace, or joy, or God’s deep love for us. But I’d love to spend the rest of my life trying.
And friends, I just wrote a SECOND posting this week as the baby has been miraculously napping since falling asleep in the car on the way here. We walked in from in front of the building and she has managed to stay asleep as I type and the girls watch Cinderella. And that, my friends, is grace yet again.