Unmerited Be The Way
This has been a year of trials. Yes? We can agree? This has been a year when we have been tested, likely in every area of our lives, in some form or another. There has been immense heartbreak, loss, frustration, and anxiety, to say the least, accompanied perhaps, by moments when we’ve been less than proud of how we’ve handled said strife. I’m sitting here, at my chipped kitchen table, sipping week-old wine and gazing, perhaps too lovingly, at discount holiday decorations I just bought at Target. It’s the little things, right?
Because I think in fact it is the little things. Yes, the election. Yes, the pandemic. But also how we’ve had to navigate our daily lives, experience the culture shock of going anywhere and everywhere with a mask, and, when we do interact with another, being confronted with all of their heartbreak, loss, frustration and anxiety. We have not always been our best in the year where “fraught” is still the most accurate way I’ve found to describe the general temperature. A dear friend of mine was assaulted at my local laundromat over a simple parking dispute. Another stopped speaking to their parents over the tiniest straw upon the camel’s back. We have been grieving our relationship to Normal, and grief makes us act in mysterious ways.
This year has taught me so much about darkness. In myself. In others. In the powers that be. But it has also taught me so much about grace. The kind that has fundamentally changed me, and how I view the world. “Unmerited divine assistance,” is how it’s defined, which gives me pause because I’m not much for religion, unless we accept that some form of God lives in all of us. And frankly, that’s too big a question for tonight. Not even does my week-old wine hold that wisdom.
What I do know is this: We are all gifted the lessons we need the most to become the truest version of ourselves. This year has been particularly generous. For instance, I am a perfectionist that can judge others out of deep insecurity that my identity would be otherwise compromised. I take pride in keeping it all together and being the most reliable, despite the by-products of worry, sleeplessness, and self-contempt. Don’t worry, I know I’m the only one. Recently, I reminded myself I didn’t “need to be everything to everyone all the time.” Little did I know that in comically short order I’d instead being nothing to nobody. It was not the first time I have spectacularly self- destructed, in public, only to be picked up by those I have judged. It is in these moments where I have most understood grace. Where I have felt it down into the marrow of my bones. Both the depth of my undeservingness and that of the kindest being offered. These are the moments I have felt the most HELD in my entire life. And yes, while I was provided evidence that I am not, in fact, perfect, I was also provided something much greater: Connection. We cannot connect from a unblemished place. We connect in times of crisis, out of vulnerability, pain, and need. Even comedians would agree with that. We connect over what we perceive to be broken. Those cracks are not only where the light comes in, it’s where humanity bleeds in, too, shining like the sun through the clouds after a storm. I have been graciously softened in these moments, and by these cracks, made something better than “together.”
Unmerited, divine assistance. As Trevor said, while wrapping my five dollar Santa mug in brown paper, “You don’t know what’s going on with anybody. Just because you got this or that doesn’t mean you’ve got a happy life. You just don’t know.” I trust that he knows what he’s talking about from the frantic pre-holiday bustle whirling around us.
My hope is that my experience is not unique. That we have all received and can therefore offer in turn the balm of grace, no matter how much the scene calls for gasoline. Because we all know what it is to suffer. And as such, we are all capable of recognizing it. But it’s still a choice to do so. I promise it will make a less lonely world. I promise the little things have the most profound effects. And if a little bit of God does exist in each of us, I promise that will be our little secret.
You should know, I’m terrible at keeping secrets.