Grace and Gratitude (November Newsletter Pastor's Note)

Updated: Jan 24

It was one of those days when everyone had a kind of rough landing at home. You know those days, right? I started offering comfort to the one who was in the most obvious emotional distress (I’m not naming names, but at 5-going-on-6, life can be really tough), and then moved my way through the house, realizing that I felt personally responsible for attending to the emotional needs of the entire household. Warning sign #1. Warning sign #2 came by email, and a question asking if anything was being planned around some particular upcoming events. I wasn’t the only recipient. And yet the mixed feelings came immediately. I can’t do all the things! I must do all the things! It is a clear failing on my part that I have not done all the things! Many of you know that I find the Enneagram to be a very helpful tool - not only descriptive of different personality types and tendencies, but also insightful, and if not prescriptive, at least suggestive. I find it to be a dynamic tool that captures our basic orientation to the world, other people, and ourselves, and can offer paths for growth and development. I receive an “Enneathought” email each day from the Enneagram Institute. That’s a great starting place to learn more about the Enneagram, by the way. The daily thought isn’t always resonant, but more often than not it is, and usually in a way that makes me want to print out the email, just so I can crumple it and throw it away. Get out of my head! One Enneathought I received a few years ago has been immensely helpful. Occasionally they offer “red flags” - things to be aware of, for each type, that indicate extra stress or potential moves into less healthy type tendencies. One for Enneagram Ones, which is my number, is to be aware when we start feeling overly responsible for all the things. We tend to be very responsible people, but when we start to think that it is up to us to do all the things and solve everyone else’s problems, when we start to feel resentful over what others are asking or expecting of us, or when we’re projecting expectations of others on ourselves, that is a warning sign to take a step back and take a self-inventory. Often that’s a signal to me that I need to be taking better care of myself, one way or another. But it is also helpful just to name the feeling, and counteract it with the truth: I am not responsible for doing all the things and managing everyone else’s feelings and expectations. I’m just not. Digging deeper, this points to three important theological truths. First, not a single person has been created to be able to do all the things. We were created to be in community. We need each other. There is no room for rugged individualism in our faith, and frankly, it is idolatry to think that everyone rests on our shoulders alone. Second, we are each beloved children of God, and God loves us just as we are. I can rest in the “enoughness” of my created being. I am enough. What I’ve done is enough. I don't have to prove myself or do more to please God. That leads to the third truth, which is that God’s grace is abundant. When we fall short of the expectations that we have of ourselves, or the expectations that others have of us, we don’t need carry that weight. If we are struggling to find grace for ourselves - which I find is often some of the hardest grace to conjure - we can rest in the assurance that God’s grace is more than enough for us. If we don’t experience grace from others - and let’s face it, when we’re all so pushed beyond our limits, there isn’t a lot of grace to go around - it’s ok. God’s grace is enough. And when we find ourselves feeling less gracious towards others, we can start with the assurance that God’s grace extends to them, and perhaps that can lead us to extend more grace to others, too. We all have our own warning signs. Maybe you know yours already, and maybe you could find some wisdom in learning more about your own Enneagram type. As we continue in this extended marathon of whatever this stage of the pandemic might be called, it’s good to know our own warning signs, and to confront the lies and theological heresies that we begin to believe, about ourselves or others. Some people have traditions in November that encourage gratitude in this season of Thanksgiving. What if we also focus on practices that encourage grace? What do you need to do to be grounded in your own enoughness? What reminders do you need from God? Are you able to make space to receive the gift of God’s grace in your life each day? And once grounded in that grace, how can you share that and extend it towards others? May we all experience God’s abundant grace in our own lives this month, and thus be freed to share it with others. Lord knows we all need it! Grace and Peace, Stephanie

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