That moment you’re reading honestly refreshing words from a kindred confessor, in her book, Accidental Saints. She’s sharing a story about how she preaches about grace when you disappoint people and then actually has to live it out when she realized she committed to officiate a wedding for a couple in her parish AND speak in Australia at the same time. I’m reading her words and find that familiar lump, that here-come-the-tears-AGAIN-gulp and recognize a mirror reflecting my scrunched face.
“It’s my practice to welcome new people to the church by making sure they know that House for All Sinners and Saints will, at some point, let them down. That I will say or do something stupid and disappoint them. And then I encourage them to decide before that happens if they will stick around after it happens. If they leave, I tell them, they will miss the way that Gods’ grace comes in and fills in the cracks left behind by our brokenness.”Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber
She goes on to share about the couple who wrote her an email acknowledging that this was one of those moments and released their pastor from officiating their wedding. “We love you. And we forgive you,” they signed.
Here’s where the mirror gets all bossy up in my face.
“I cried because I needed to be set free. I needed someone to let the plates drop… I had been so afraid for so long that my parishioners would start to feel ignored and would resent me, and I exhausted myself trying to prevent that, because I love them, and in the end, the thing I feared happened anyway, and I was okay, and they were okay.”
It took her spiritual director pointing out that she had preached that grace message for so long because she was afraid to have to need it herself.
I get it this on a fafillion levels.
In fact, just yesterday my friend Blake shared the recent episode from Allender Center Podcast: Trauma- Informed Care with Abby Wong- Heffter and as I listened to this therapist talk about trauma, there was that dang mirror again. When trauma happens, we respond in different ways. One way is to turn on yourself and hate yourself. To emotionally peace out. Self-loathe. I recognized this experience in my own story years before when I had tried so hard to find myself at home in a new town, in the writer/speaker world, in a church, with creative souls, in a small group, at a job. The thing was that when I was honest about my insides, my not-so-shiny parts, my needs, my journey, I was often met with silence or rejection. So, I turned on myself and hated myself. Surely if others don’t want me, I don’t want myself. And Jesus was the one who stayed, gently tapping at my core.
I’m still here, he assured.
There were years I looked for the closest warm body to inhabit. Just any place but here. At some level, don’t we all need to open our own doors and be seen and known? Yet, here is where I’ve been making my way back home to in the most healing sense. Home to God. Where I actually enjoy who I am. But this came with much work. Spiritual direction. Counseling. Safe friends. Gentle boundaries. Staying soft. Lots of apologizing. Surrendering. Letting go. Grace upon space upon grace.
So, it’s no wonder I get super passionate about offering Pasture, a place to experience grace and space. Come home to yourself, I say. There’s nothing but grace and space for all your honest parts. I preach Pasture because I need Pasture.
I need to say I’m not okay and still be loved. I need to say I experience lonely seasons without getting a list of how great my life appears on social media (when I do post). I need room to question faith, and be honest about marriage, and un-tangle co-dependency, and admit I drank too much during Covid, and to find confidence in my old soul-deep connector self. I need grace and space to admit I expected too much from people who weren’t in a position to give or meet my longings. I need grace and space to say that I wished I was cooler and had a big ol’ fluffy community. I need grace and space to accept what is.
I offer what I need. Tons of grace to be human. Tenderness for the process. Few answers. Listening ears. Forgiveness for the ways I’ve chosen immaturity and spoken through emotions when I needed to be quiet. But a main part of the journey is fumbling through and then making it easier for those who need grace and space as well.
So, thank you Nadia for reflecting my needs up close and reminding me that I preach what I need and in turn, offer to sojourners looking for warmth and permission that trickles from Grace Himself. Leaders are just humans who are crazy enough to go at it trusting scared. And this girl? She offers what she needs. Grace and space and more grace and space.