Fellow saint and sinner Tammy gives below another honest, raw examination of her life through the lens of God’s grace. God’s grace, not our own often clumsy efforts to achieve goodness or live right or follow our own hearts or lost dreams, is, afterall, I believe, the most important thing. It’s the reason we’re alive and the underlying rhythm of our life’s song. And it reminds me that, as preacher and teacher Tom Long has put it, the best things in life come to us not as anything we can dredge up or manufacture on our own, but as serendipitous, breathtaking encounters from outside of ourselves. ”Happenings” of sorts. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Self-control. Grace. Mercy. Truth. Justice. Goodness. They happen, usually not by my own effort, I’ve found- and only by more of God’s grace in my life.
Thanks for your courage to share some of your own story, Tammy; you have encouraged me this morning to share with greater depth of honesty and humility the gracefull “happenings” in my own life, which one day will appear in my book, Grace Sticks: The Bumper Sticker Gospel for Restless Souls. You’ll be in the credits.:
I am not graceful. No, really. I am the polar opposite of graceful. See this picture above? I was five, rollerskating in the driveway (that had a pretty steep incline) and I yelled to my mom, “Look, Mom, I’m Dorothy Hamill!” I then attempted a spin that she was very famous for at the time in the figure skating world and probably the Olympics. As you can see in the aforementioned picture, I did not so much execute her award-winning maneuvers, opting instead to spin out of control, land on my wrist, and break it. It’s a legendary story in my family.
When I was 12, and Mary Lou Retton became the first female American gymnast to take the all-around gold in gymnastics in the 1984 Olympics, I decided I would give gymnastics a try. My mom even bought my sister and I matching Mary Lou Retton leotards, which you can see here, but not on me. My career ended shortly after, when it was determined that I had nothing at all that was required of a gymnast. I retired the leotard.
According to the world’s definition of grace, I have none of it. I can’t walk in a straight line, I bounce off of door frames and clip the corners of walls on a regular basis. I have absolutely no depth perception so my parallel parking resembles a bumper car ride on the boardwalk in Ocean City. A friend once told me I had a distinct “lack of body awareness.” I trip over invisible objects, I graze people constantly when I try to pass them. One time, I kid you not, I fell off a curb on Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile for crying out loud, and hit my head on the side of a car. It was not moving at the time, thank the sweet baby Jesus. Not very magnificent at all. Again, a legendary experience.
So in terms of graceful as in physical grace, I am just plain deprived.
Were I to turn the definition to a more supernatural one than I may be able to contribute. Mostly because I have been the recipient of so much grace. I have required it so very often in my life. As much bodily harm as I have inflicted upon myself due to my complete and total lack of physical prowess, I have MORE THAN made up for in terms of spiritual and emotional and mental damage. But grace found me and claimed me and gave me a new name. GRACEFULL. Full of it so I could give it to others. Which brings me amazing amounts of joy. I love to be a wild and crazy grace dispenser. Tell me your story and I will heap lavish grace on you until you can’t breathe for grace.
How’s this for the grace of God? That picture was taken on the grounds of Friends Hospital in Philadelphia. The mental institution my mother worked for. Yes, we played there. There were huge expanses of field, a duck pond, trails in the woods, and prize-winning azaleas. There were also underground tunnels that my sister and I loved to explore. Yes, in a mental hospital. There was beauty to be found even there.
Twelve years later, at seventeen, I found grace in another mental hospital. As a resident. I was broken. And alone. And so very scared. I prayed the prayer there. I think it went something like this: “I can’t live right, I can’t die right, so Jesus, if you want this life, you can have it.” I had prayed before, but this time was different. I knew what it was going to cost me and I knew just how badly I was in need of it. Jesus met me there. Grace was dispensed in a wild and crazy way by a wild and crazy God. And from then on, I was full of grace too.
P.S. For the record, I have not attempted anything I saw on the Olympics this year. Yet. I will keep you posted.