Do you have difficulty pushing yourself to try something because you feel self-conscious, or afraid people will either ignore you, make fun of you, or criticize you? Nearly every time I put something on my blog, on social media, invite people over, or want to meet someone, I run into this familiar resistance. Most of the time it’s mild enough I can ride over it like a bump in my path, but sometimes I don’t.
For the last couple of weeks, I have been hearing of others who are making the choice, and asking for prayers, to push past these feelings that hold us back. We can habituate to these common feelings and they become unexamined tendencies. For example, I will retreat quietly, withdrawing to a comfortable status quo. Graciously, Jesus reveals these habits to us so that we can receive his help to overcome them. Those who have been asking me for prayer are responding to Him and taking a vital initial step.
These habits are a hindrance to taking risks. They are most challenging to overcome. They are the unnoticed, first stones upon a path. At the outset, we veer around them easily and unconsciously, but onward they doggedly, repetitively appear, and we soon tire – didn’t we get past that particular thing long ago? I stepped onto the stage to speak as I trembled in my boots, but I did it, so why is it so hard to do it again? I’ve invited new neighbors over before, even though I knew nothing about them, so why is it so hard to do it again? I’ve applied to jobs like this before, so why is it so hard to do it again?
It’s rather like we set out to climb a mountain, inspired by its grandeur and the challenge, but then are tempted to quit partway because we keep tripping over the gravel and roots. So often it’s the little things that aggravate and exhaust us. We stop partway because we’re tired and the view is good enough.
But courage is not a one-time deal, a rise to one battle and then a long languor in the spoils of victory afterward. It is first a persevering attitude of grit and determination. Second, it is an attitude of grace. Let me show you the difference between straightforward perseverance and one infused with grace.
A persevering person might kick each stone out of the way, frustration mounting, until the path to the top is littered with expletives and pebbles. Yes, she made it, but the joy of it evaporated as the air thinned, taking her patience with it. I confess I have worked hard to make something enjoyable happen, like a special outing to the lake, and not enjoyed it because, during the push of preparation I persevered without grace. By the time we got to the lake, I was so sour that the laughter and happy water seemed to mock me, and everyone (understandably) kept their distance from me!
Whereas a persevering and graceful person kicks the same pebbles away, gets frustrated, but pauses to temper her reactions. She admits her fatigue, the presence of the trials, the thinning air, and she keeps going, but she allows herself enough space and pause to defuse the irritations, accepting her limitations even as she pushes past them.
She paces herself with grace.
Take this post as an example. I have written, and re-written, and almost posted it so many times. Each time, I’ve run up against frustrations of not liking the writing, or feeling foolish, or excuses of being busy. I’ve felt self-conscious, I’ve thought it would be criticized, and more. Every time I pray about it, Jesus encourages me to keep going. I’ve paused a lot, which is why it isn’t posting at the usual time! However, if you’re reading this, I did it! And I’m glad, even if I’m unsure of it at the same time.
This post is one tiny step toward a larger goal: to minister to the spirits of Christ-following leaders.
One of the most helpful choices I’ve made to progress toward this goal is join Hope*Writers. There is such encouragement, practical help, and wisdom available to people in all stages of writing in this group. This blog, and thus this post, would not exist without them. If you are wanting to take a step toward writing, I can recommend nothing better! Membership is open this week only, Mon. May 21 through midnight (ET) Fri. May 25, 2018. To join, click my affiliate link here. I do make a commission off your membership, which will help me keep writing while also helping you in yours!
Setting out to try your hand at writing is one lofty, challenging choice. Maybe that’s not your path, but you have set out to follow a call, a dream, a degree, a specific spiritual transformation within you, or you are overcoming an addiction, debt, or fighting cancer. For these great and mighty risks, a deep breath, a short pause, or a mantra, are not enough to buoy us over the difficulties. For these we need tenacious grace.
Imagine again our mountain climber. Suppose that, on this gravelly, steep path, a wind also arises, taunting in its vigor as it buffets her wobbly legs side to side. Her hair stings her eyes and cheeks, and the already difficult path becomes almost impossible. When a shocking gust roars at her, she topples, cringing, on a boulder. It would be easier here to stop, beaten. But, with even more tenacious and ever tiny steps, she inches forward. She paces herself with grace – and keeps going even when it means minute progress.
There is one more grace available to her. Her friend is stretching her hand to her. She takes it, and with that grasp, courage rises. We weren’t meant to climb alone. For many it is easier to embark courageously on an achievement than it is to embark on it with someone. We might actually need them! We might be a burden! They might hold us back! But when we go it alone, we deprive ourselves of enormous amounts of grace, and we are MUCH less likely to reach the summit. Hope*Writers are those friends for me.
Our mountain climber summits. She lives out her call, she gets her degree, she becomes more forgiving, she steadily beats the addiction, stays out of debt, or keeps fighting the cancer. And because she’s been tenaciously and gracefully persevering with her friends, the joy is even greater. The grace she employed on the path blooms into a rich, peaceful gratitude that she shares with her friends. The path and the summit each offered her treasures, and she took them both with her attitude of perseverance and grace.
Allow me to ask you, in what situations and what relationships do you need to pace yourself with grace? Do you need to pause more often, slow down, and ask for help? Are you working forward through risk to a goal or a call? How can I, how can your friends and family, your church, or finding a community like Hope*Writers, help you?
Be persevering, be gracious, and be receptive to help.
Pace yourself with grace.