Today I glimpsed grace.
A group of women gathered to play volleyball for the evening. I’m not good at volleyball, but I do know the rules of the game. So I came ready to (fail to) meet the expectations, the universal laws of hitting a ball across a net. And I expected to reward and be rewarded points accordingly. Life of perfectionism, life according to the law.
But my community does not do life according to the law, and it’s not a very comfortable place for perfectionism! Someone served, and hit the rafters. “Redo!” They served again, and managed to get the ball on the side balcony. “Redo!” The next time the ball made it in the right direction and landed three feet short of the net. “Redo!” (How much grace are we allowing here?) Others encouraged them to come toward the net, halfway down the court and try again. The ball hit the net. “Redo!” (Really??) Finally the ball made it over, and we returned the serve, only to lose the point and have the whole process start over again. (Now you know we’re actually winning, right?)
Eventually we got the ball. A lovely serve over into the right area, and the opposing team stood like statues, except for the three women closest to the ball. They screamed, ducked, and covered their heads. Again, and again, and again. But we weren’t adding points to our score. Finally, someone elbowed the ball. Cheers all around. (What is this game all about anyway? Isn’t the point of life — I mean, the game — keeping the rules, scoring points, and winning?)
Over the next hour of attempting to hit the ball back and forth across the net, God shifted my heart, reminded me again of grace. There was a day, not that many months ago, when I was the frightened woman trying to avoid getting hit by the ball. That day I was shown grace upon grace, and in that grace I began to like volleyball. Grace made space for me to grow. Yet I had forgotten, and returned to thinking that pressure and rules would teach the new women to do well at the game. But, no. It was this wide place of grace, where people cheered ecstatically for a (miserably failed) attempt, it was here that the women found joy in the game, and found courage to try at least kicking the ball. I finished the evening calling “Redo” and cheering along with the others, and thinking . . .
Grace didn’t just give me space to love and learn volleyball. Grace gives me space to love and learn life. I am well accustomed to rules, to expectations, to pressure, to rewards for achievement and punishment for failure, to standards and performance. Those have shaped and formed me, pressure pushing in, leaving me fearfully good. But it is grace that frees me, that teaches me to love God and to love this life He has given me.
I am called to remember this grace. I am called to live this grace. And, as I grow in grace, I’m called to accept grace for self-centered perfectionism, and extend grace to others for their selfish sins. I am called to offer to others this space of grace, this room to find love and joy that I have been given.
*written February 12, 2012