Photo Credit: Darryl Millette
It is a January deep freeze in Saskatchewan and my three-year-old buries himself in his blanket in the morning and says, “It’s cold and I’m tired. I’m not getting out of bed.” He just says what the rest of us are feeling. Navigating out of holiday mode and back into real life in a winter new year is a stretch. I have literally nothing left for resolution. It is a good thing that grace is God’s way.
Resolution talk still lingers in the frigid air. Diet ads find their way into my feed despite considerable efforts to exclude them. Omicron is snowing over our collective longing to be rid of the pandemic. I need discipline and hope more than ever. If past performance is any reliable indicator, I am most likely to rely on grand plans that exhaust and deplete me as well as my people. When I am defeated or give up, I resort to the opposite: don’t bother trying and then you can’t fail. There has been a lot of resigned lack of effort in surviving the pandemic.
After a major trauma, it has been my experience that human capacity for intentional progress on goals is diminished. My therapists reminded me constantly that healing is rarely linear, and though we participate in it, we respond to life in healing ways rather than direct our own healing. I dislike this. And still, I have found it to be true. Healing is a flow of grace that comes from beyond me.
The pandemic has felt so similar to the intense grieving that followed my sister’s death: unanticipated, unpredictable, and unending. There has been so much to let go of, to endure, to struggle through. And two years in, our family is still learning how to live here. (Even with three years to practice before).
I’m feeling the new year urges to new life. The hope that comes from celebrating the birth, once again, of a divinity that comes to where I am, no matter how resigned. There have been persistent invitations pressing at my heart now for awhile: to move, to risk, to become. It feels dangerous after all this surviving to respond to an invitation to living more deeply.
After all of the losses, I know that I cannot handle firm resolutions and reliance on my (stubborn) will. Neither has had lasting success before the trauma anyway. The unexpected upside of being so plowed under is that I can see with hindsight the way that grace carries me through.
Grace might be the one thread that holds me fast to faith. A constant sparkle in frosty air that disappears to my peripheral vision as soon as I try to focus on it. Love that shows up even, and maybe especially, when I least deserve it. Pain that gives way to something good.
It is cold. I am tired. And I am getting out of bed, turning on the Christmas tree lights and moving because God keeps whispering that I need to. I will not make it there every day, but it is enough that I do so gently when I can. I am tracking less time on screens and more time outside. There is a path of grace between planning to fix everything that is “wrong” with me and declaring myself a lost cause.
Here, in the break between snow storms, there is a lot of clarity under the rainbow sundogs that frame the sun whenever it appears. Grace doesn’t measure me – it moves me. Slowly, I am finding a deeper sense of myself that is not falling short but falling into a rhythm of life.
When all the things I “should” do start to overwhelm me, I listen to the sound of the hoar frost. Grace shows up when the whispered invitation meets my capacity to respond, however small and slow. Resolve is giving way to gentleness. Maybe this is what I love so much about my elders?
May this year bring me closer to the movement of the one who sends the snow. May I see the beauty in the fresh snow and the invitations God whispers. And may I remember that a gentle response is a profound participation in grace.