During a class she taught at my church last week, my friend Deidra offered a definition of grace that settled deep into my soul.
“Grace is moving toward,” Deidra said — moving toward those we don’t necessarily want to move toward or even moving toward someone as they are, not as who we want them to be.
“Do you need to move toward a person and into their world,” Deidra asked, “intead of trying to force them to move into yours?”
When Deidra asked that question, I immediately thought of my two kids. The hard truth is, I haven’t always done a good job of embracing who they are as individuals, but instead, often find myself trying to shape one to reflect the other.
I realize this is Parenting 101. I’m ashamed to admit it’s taken me 14 years of childrearing to come to this understanding.
You see, I have two very different kids. One is quiet and introspective; the other is an effervesence extrovert. One is contemplative, the other is a man of action. One thrives in busyness, energy and excitement, the other requires a copious amount of stillness and solitude. But instead of embracing and nurturing their uniquely distinct personalities, here is where I have made my critical mistake: more often than not, I have tried to force one to fit the shape of the other. Instead of moving toward one child and toward his world, instead of embracing who he is and how God made him, I have often tried to move him toward me – or rather, toward his brother. I have tried to redefine and reshape each of my sons based on the qualities of the other or on my expectations.
Thankfully my attempts have failed abysmally. Each of my sons is still very much his own unique, quirky, individual self. Personalities are resilient and stubborn, it turns out.
This epiphany about grace is important for me, not only as a parent but as an individual as well. Because the truth is, I often move myself toward the shape of others. Maybe you do this, too? Maybe you yearn to look like she does, or speak like she does, or be the kind of writer, or mother or wife or boss that she is.
Maybe you find yourself trying to push and pull and squeeze yourself and all that makes you beautifully, uniquely you into someone else’s box – to remake yourself into someone else.
Maybe it’s my tendency toward perfectionism, but I do this more often than I would like to admit. I try to redefine or reshape myself based on the appealing qualities of someone else. I think part of me assumes, “If only I could be like that, then it — I — would be enough,” which is a lie, of course – one of the biggest, fattest of all lies.
Deidra’s beautiful definition of grace is Truth, and we need to apply it to ourselves, too. Grace is moving more fully toward ourselves as the perfectly beautiful, unique individuals God created each one of us to be. Let’s give ourselves grace. Let’s move toward, love, and fully embrace ourselves, because who we really are is who God intended us to be.