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Tangible Grace (Expectations for the Coming Year)

August 21, 2011

My sophomore year of college I was hired as a Resident Advisor of 16 women on my dorm’s 3rd floor.  Some were my age or older, but most of the girls were starting their freshman year.  Sometimes I wonder who in their right mind was crazy enough to hire me to “advise” a group of college-aged women, but I am forever grateful I was given the chance.  I loved being there for these girls.  I loved the knock on my door late at night when a phone call with a boyfriend went bad.  I loved hearing music blasting from dorm rooms, shrieks in the community bathroom when someone did something really funny, and the feeling of someone’s head resting in comfort on my shoulder.  I didn’t mind being the go-to person when the window crank broke off, the last-minute paper needed editing, or someone just needed to cry.  I loved that year, and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I often laugh at my year of being an RA because my family remembers it so differently.  My family most likely remembers that year through my frantic phone calls – Mom, I’m so stressed out! – How am I going to finish my own paper in time? – Dad, my headaches won’t go away – There’s only so much of me to go around, I’m only one person! – and the list could go on and on and on.  My family probably remembers worrying about my health, wondering whether or not I was actually sleeping, and praying their loved one would just relax a little bit.  Not everything was a crisis the way I spinned it when I called.

Both sides of that year are true.  The love and the pain.  The stress as well as the adrenaline.  The joy in caring for others and the burden of that call.  It was all there.  But it was one of those years where everything also just fell into place for me too.  Things happened the way that they were meant to.  Yes, I was stretched as thin as I felt I could go, but never have I felt so close to God’s purpose for me.  Even amidst all the overwhelming chaos, there was a tranquil calm that presided over that year.  There was a palpable grace that I swear I could physically feel and see.  Even among the unexpected scenarios that both personally and academically crept up, God’s grace was tangible.  I could put it in my pocket and pull it out when I needed it.  I could hold it in the palm of my hand and let my fingers squish in around it like play-dough.  I could break pieces off and give it to others and watch, miraculously, as my own sense of grace instantly renewed itself.  It was as if I never gave any away in the first place.

I am feeling like I’m about to have a year like that.  A year of tangible, palpable grace.  I’m feeling like the expectations for my time and energy is stacking, stacking, stacking up – and I’m watching with an interesting sense of anticipation.  Do I think I will be stressed this year?  Yes I do.  Do I think there will be nights of tears and fighting and screaming into a pillow?  I can guarantee it.  Am I nervous that I will be able to handle what is being given to me?  Very much so.

But overriding it all, overseeing it all, is my very own piece of grace.  Yet again, tangible grace seems to be mine for the taking.  I think God will see me through this one.  I think He’s ready to carry me again this year.  And I think, for the first time since my year with 16 college women, I’m willing to let Him.

…to love each other endlessly-not only for
a hundred years, not only six feet up and down.
We want the suns and moons of silver
in ourselves, not only counted coins in a cup. The whole

idea of love was not to fall. And neither was
the whole idea of God. We put him well
above ourselves, because we meant,
in time, to measure up.

~ Heather McHugh ~
excerpt from “A Physics”
(Hinge and Sign: Poems, 1968-1993)
2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2011 1:51 am

    I am so enjoying your lovely writing, your thoughtful reflections – thank you so much for this quiet, careful space. I am grateful. And I know exactly what you mean by this ‘tangible grace’ experience when you are feeling highly stressed. Basically, I am not a fan of stress – don’t think it’s good for us or what God intended life to be. BUT there are seasons when we just simply need that infusion of strength-beyond-reason. Thanks for capturing it so beautifully. And blessings of exactly that grace as you step into this next over-loaded stretch.

    • August 24, 2011 4:44 pm

      Oh Diana, those are undeserved compliments. Thank you for taking the time to read and write to me – to share a piece of yourself too. I’m grateful for you. Thank you.

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