Learning the unforced rhythms of grace


Skooch over a little?

The theatre is packed. The lights are dimming and the opening credits begin to scroll. Without taking your eyes off the screen, you reach into the popcorn bag with one hand and stuff a small handful into your mouth. The taste of salt and butter remind you that now you are about to slip into a two hour adventure that you've been looking forward for a long time. Your best pal is beside you and all is good.

Then something bumps your knee and you hear, "Can you skooch over a little?" A mom with three pre-teens loaded with snacks and excited expressions on their faces are staring at you. Snapped out of your relaxed state, you glance at the seats around you and do some quick calculations. She wants to sit together with her kids. If you move over two seats, this will be possible. It is very appropriate for her to ask, it is not a problem to move and so you do. Some shifting, some "excuse me - sorry - coming through" conversations happen and soon everyone is settled and the movie has started. The little family looks happy and you . . . feel agitated.

Life is about change. Change must happen. Whenever we settle into something that we feel is good and right and 'perfect', we must expect and anticipate that change still will come. If we don't, we set ourselves up for disappointment - every time!

One of the blessings of living with chronic illness and pain is that I have daily reminders to let go of what is 'perfect' and instead be grateful for what is good. For example, I may have a big plan to accomplish things during the day but if pain sets in and stays longer than usual, then half my list needs to be set aside for another day. I could complain and demand that, like the theatre scenario, "I was here first! I'm not moving! I deserve this luxury! I'm not skooching over for anyone!" But if I do that, I ruin the fun for everyone, including myself.

So what does it look like to live life with a willingness to skooch?

Paul has some good ideas about this in the letter he wrote to the churches in Galatia. It's SO good, I'm going to include most of the chapter: 

Paul says, "It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? 

My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence? 

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. 

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely." Galatians 5: 13-22 (The Message)

So we have a choice . . . we can plant our feet firmly where we are and refuse to move or we can open ourselves up to the mysterious ways of God's plans for our lives and respond with a willingness to what else might be a possibility.

"Lord, give us the courage to relax our grip on our 'perfect' plans for our lives . . . so that we may move fluidly with what You want to accomplish through us and in us . . . for Your glory, not our own. Amen."