It feels heavy today.
I thought that as the fog piled up around me in the wee morning hours, clogging the headlight beams, tossing itself over my car like one of those dense blankets you throw over a fire to smother the flames.
And inside I felt a little bit smothered.
Life unleashed a lot this week.
And I wasn’t ready.
Do you ever have those days or weeks when you feel like in a breath you become the worst version of yourself, like one big walking weakness? At first, you’re okay. Got a lot going on, but holding it together.
And then out of the fog, Satan sucker-punches you.
And it’s like the stars that fly around people’s heads in the cartoons, like he’s out of the blue walked into your house under the cover of night and kicked open that box that holds all the stuff that you’d like to never see the light of day again — your deepest hurts, your deepest grief, the things you struggle with.
And he’s like that bully kid who doesn’t care how sacred that particular stuff is. He’s just dumping it all out like cheap toys to be played with, throwing them all over the floor, breaking them, messing with them, and you watch in horror, powerless as everything broken is horrifically on display.
That was my week this week.
And I spent all seven days on hands and knees crawling around, trying to pick it up as he just reached into the box and threw out more.
For the love, just make it stop.
But that’s just not how our enemy rolls … not once he has his crosshairs trained on you. He just goes harder. (I mean, just look at Job 1.)
This week was hardly like Job. But in one particular moment, after trying for days to catch up to Satan’s pace and overtake him, I cried mercy. I was in a conference, and the worship leaders started playing a song that yanks my heart back to a moment I’d love to never revisit again. What are the chances they’d play that. Right now. This week. Two friends saw it happen, and they reached over from both sides and grabbed my hands. I squeezed them like I was holding on for dear life.
I found myself wishing I’d worked a lot harder to keep a tighter squeeze on the lid of that box. To not leave my vulnerable spots wide open.
But as I squeezed their hands, I remembered that I’d released my grip on that box a while back, on purpose.
Because I can’t control it even if I try.
And because the pain itself isn’t the problem. Weakness itself isn’t the problem. Neither are the struggles.
It’s going to come out sometimes. It’s going to hurt sometimes. I’m going to wrestle sometimes. I’m going to ugly cry on friends kind enough to let me in the middle of a worship service, and I’m going to do it sometimes by myself in a bathroom stall, or my car, or in my bed at night.
That song, for instance. It’s not the first time it’s been played. It’s played a thousand times (or ten thousand, one might say) in the past two and a half years since the day I sang it as the guys carried my friend Clare’s wicker casket down the aisle. Sometimes I’ve switched it off the radio. Sometimes I’ve been able to sing it. Others I’ve been able to just let myself cry and tell God how much it hurts.
The box gets opened.
But the difference is this — I don’t have to hit the mat when the punches come.
Because when I’m buried in God’s Word on a daily basis … when His truth is filling up the corners of my heart … and the box opens, I filter it through His truth. When I’m not going from strength to strength in the power of His presence and Word, I’m just Grace. Grace who means well and wants to hold it all together but who has a well of emotions that runs from Alabama clear through to China.
But because of Jesus … even that Grace can see her pain through the lens of His love and truth and greater purpose and in light of the highway to Zion that’s getting me to the place I want to be more than anywhere else.
When I’m weak, He’s strong.
But only when I saturate myself in His strength.
One night, as tears ran down my face, I texted one of those hand-squeezing friends and told her how I much I hate it when weaknesses smother you.
And she said this: Sometimes I wonder if God lets our emotions overtake us to remind us that we can’t control everything. I don’t love it.
I don’t love it either.
But the fact is … it’s better for that box to get opened and remind me why it’s important I not try to life on my own. It’s better for it to drive me into Jesus. It’s better for it to end up in His hands than stay locked up in that box. It’s better for me to remember that it’s Him I want, and that He cares for me, and that all this is temporary.
And that grounds me. It hurts, yes. But hurt feels different when it’s grounded in His heart for me.
And that … that part I love.
(@gracefortheroadblog on Instagram.)
I’m up early this morning. Extra early. The kind of early that hurts.
My eyes are full of sandpaper, but my mind is running all-out sprints, like it’s on an episode of Supermarket Sweep and trying to get to the diapers and “grind your own coffee” aisle faster than anyone else.
It’s like those moments in college when you wake up and on the way to the bathroom bump into a friend who never went to bed the night before. It feels like my mind’s been up drinking Mountain Dew and eating Whatchamacallits and writing Analysis of Lit papers all night, just waiting for morning to crack open the sky so the rest of the world would wake up and join it.
But it can’t be reasoned with. So I go ahead, get on up and make a cup of tea.
When I’m not exhausted, I love the early hours. Jesus is there. His Word is loud in the mornings when the house is quiet and my soul is quiet.
But it’s still hard to hear if my brain is causing a ruckus all its own.
I switch on the lamp and sink into the chair. I need this. I do every day, but especially today. I’m in a season of crazy. Work’s been so busy this month that carving out time to sit with Jesus has taken incredible effort and discipline. Some days, even with effort, it doesn’t happen. Some days it costs sleep when sleep is small and precious. Some weeks it means I’m sleeping next to an unfolded pile of clean laundry for nights on end.
But that laundry not getting folded doesn’t cause my soul to fray at the edges.
Not getting enough Jesus does.
So in that regard, I’m grateful I’m up early.
But even wide awake in the 4 a.m. silence, getting my soul to quiet down today is like wrestling a toddler to sit still in church. It doesn’t need to be running up and down the pews, drawing on things, making noise. It doesn’t need to be running over grocery lists and scheduled meetings and stories that need writing and espresso beverages that need making in the next 18 hours.
What it needs is to be still.
But in that moment, it won’t listen when I tell it that that’s for later — right now it’s time to be quiet. Because you won’t make it through the day without it.
I rub my gritty eyes and sit in the silence, staring at the words I want to soak past the cloud of thoughts and into my heart. I read the words of 1 Peter aloud, over and over to my wildly running mind.
“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Action is definitely a concept my brain gets. It’s had its running shoes on all night. All month. Like a boss, if it can say so. Commute to work, commute to second job, buy groceries, get gas, make lunch, lay out clothes, pack bags, sleep, repeat insanity.
But I’m not sure that’s what Peter’s talking about. The Word is loud on that point.
Prepared for action. Sober-minded, not just cranking out thoughts. My mind is to be disciplined just like my schedule — a weapon locked and loaded to make every moment count, but not running wildly in the moments where preparation is more important than action.
Like I make my schedule sit still, I have to make my mind sit still, too.
I have to trade the chaos of a toddler for the discipline of a soldier, a mind hopped up on Mountain Dew for a mind locked on the hope of Christ.
That’s not easy.
But Jesus never said it would be easy.
He just told us He would give us all of Himself if we give Him all of ourselves — our mind, our soul, our strength.
So practically that means I have to call upon His strength to sit my heart still. I have to do what it takes to settle my spirit on God. I read verses over and over aloud, soaking them in, emphasizing their words to my heart. I journal out what those words are asking me to do when I get up in a few minutes, put on my shoes and let my mind start running.
And as I sit in the car in the parking lot of my job preparing myself for the next thing, I pray for God to instill those words in my heart, in my day. That, as Peter said, I would honor others more than myself. That I would show love to everyone. That I would be prepared to give an answer for the hope that I have. That with my conduct, I could win those I live among even without a word.
And that more than anything, I would live with a mind set on the One who gave everything so that I could live as those who are free.
I think sometimes we have a tendency to live like having a mind set on God makes everything weighty and serious. And in a way, that’s true. It’s eternal hope we’re dealing with.
But in reality, fixing our minds soberly on God in every detail of our day releases our anxieties into His hands and gives us freedom.
Freedom from being ruled by the tasks of the day.
Freedom from living like I’m in survival mode.
Freedom from the world.
Freedom, because what can man do to me when I have everything in God?
So this morning, I breathe.
Be sober, Grace.
Know where your hope is fully found.
Think like it. Live like it.
And carry that still certainty in your heart all day long.
(@gracefortheroadblog on Instagram.)
Worry doesn’t work. Because just like we can’t anticipate what we really need, we also can’t anticipate the lavish grace that will meet us there.
Where’s it going to come from?
The question hung in the humid air of the screened-in porch as I sat there, knees pulled tightly to my chest. Steam poured from my cup of tea, all sluggish and slow. Letting it out of that mug into the heavy air felt like pouring a Dixie cup of water into the ocean.
It didn’t really seem to go anywhere.
And neither did my questions.
Will I have the strength for that?
What will I say to them if that thing they’re dreading happens?
A bird sang.
I sat. Quiet.
The questions lingered like the steam.
And then suddenly, without warning, it was pouring. Deluge-style pouring. Split seconds ago, the air was heavy with moisture unseen, but now the clouds were ripped open at the seams and spilling their contents onto the back porch with ferocity. Rain made oceans on the concrete and gushed at full strength through the gutters.
And in rushed His Word.
“Look at the birds of the air: They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26)
I watched the rain splash against the screen, slapping against it and rolling in sheets over the porch out into the yard.
“God, I know you give us all things in the moment we need them.”
This past Sunday, our pastor Matt preached from Matthew 15, the story of Jesus feeding the 4,000. From just a few loaves of bread, everyone ate and had more than they could finish … and that was after three days of hanging out in the wilderness, wondering when they might eat again. Jesus tore that bread until there were seven extra baskets full of uneaten bread.
Why seven extra baskets? God knew exactly how much was needed. And there was no one else around to eat the leftovers.
“Those seven extra baskets are a picture of God’s lavish grace.”
Because God is so much more. So, so much more than anything we can ask or think.
I remember a few years back when my friend Abbey’s dad passed away after a long battle with cancer. That thing had finally happened, the thing she wondered if she would know how to deal with if and when it happened.
What she said in that moment stuck with me. “I couldn’t have imagined the way it would hurt. But I also couldn’t have imagined the way God would give me grace in a way I had never experienced it before. It’s sweeter than anything I could’ve imagined.”
The sky ripped open.
Grace rushed down with ferocity.
And that’s why worry doesn’t work.
Because just like we can’t anticipate what we really need, we also can’t anticipate the lavish grace that will meet us there.
A lot of times we think of grace as “decaffeinated grace” that pats us on the hand and tells us everything’s going to be okay, Matt said, quoting Dane Ortlund’s “Defiant Grace.”
But that’s never what grace was meant to be.
What God rains down on us in our moment of need is “the high-octane grace that takes our conscience by the scruff of the neck and breathes new life into us with a pardon so scandalous that we cannot help but be changed.”
We get seven baskets extra.
We get God and all the peace, provision, joy and hope He has to offer.
And we get that by walking with Him willingly into the wilderness, following His voice, not knowing when the bread will come, but valuing His presence above what fills our stomachs.
He’s never failed us yet. We see that in His Word. We see it in our lives.
And we trust it for tomorrow.