Why I Need Your Grace

authenticity, vulnerability, and grace

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We all need grace. I try to extend mine to everyone at all times. Here are some reasons why I need yours.

I’m a flawed person.

I am a flawed pastor, flawed teacher, flawed therapist, flawed husband and father. As charming and charismatic as I have learned to be when I’m “on stage” in some way (by which I mean simply being looked up to in one of my roles as pastor/teacher/therapist), I can be equally cold and aloof when the spotlight goes off.

It’s not because I don’t genuinely love people. I love you more than I can say and everything I say in all of my roles is 100% true.

It’s just that I’m tired.

I love people, but you wear me out sometimes.

It’s not your fault, it’s just my own limitation.

If you haven’t heard that from a leader before, it’s probably just because I’m the only one stupid enough to write it down.

I am inadequate.

I don’t have all the gifts I need for ministry. Or teaching. Or therapy. Or relating to other people. No one does, of course, but those of us actually trying to do it are the ones being judged and evaluated and to a large extent, that’s fair.

It’s really true that, in the end, I’m just another person, stumbling toward the light. Follow me if you think I’m going somewhere important. I’ll try hard to show you what I know but this vessel, like any other, is broken. And because this vessel is broken, everything in it — my love, my inspiration, my calling, my courage — they all leak out from time to time.

My favorite songwriter has said it better than I ever could: “I’ll burst your bubble.”

I will teach passionately and sometimes I’ll approach brilliance. It’ll be amazing. But then I’ll get enamored with my own words and go on too long.

You’ll wonder why I didn’t just quit while I was ahead.

So will I.

I’ll wax eloquent about the relentless love and grace of God and then, 20 minutes later, seem to not have two minutes to stop and talk to you in the foyer.

In therapy, I’ll paint the picture for you of your value, help you see your own foibles more clearly, teach you how much you matter, only to forget your next appointment and leave you sitting alone in the parking lot.

I’ll teach about meditation every week, at least touch on it in some way, then struggle deeply to complete two 20-minute sessions that week.

I don’t pretend to have already arrived, I’m just happy if, somehow, after I’ve said all my words, I can get there with you.

If I could only teach things I’ve already mastered, I could never teach anything at all, as I’m a jack of many trades, but a master of none.

I’m often not the husband I wish I was

The kind of husband I am comes out of the kind of person I am. Since I am a limited and flawed person, I am a limited and flawed husband. I can see so clearly where others are going wrong in their relationships, but I have hurt my own wife more than I ever imagined I would.

So please don’t ever get the impression that being married to me must be a real treat. Christy loves me, but I am pretty sure she wouldn’t quite describe it that way.

I write this way to deflect criticism

Even this vulnerability is ultimately a way of being defensive. Perhaps if I’m hard enough on myself, you will go easy on me. That’s the thought, anyway.

But why should you? You have a right to expect me to do my job and do it well, and to be disappointed when I fail. Sure, I’ve told you I’ll burst your bubble, but that doesn’t deprive you of the right to be upset when I do.

It does help me quite a bit, though, to have never claimed to be anything other than human. In the end, that’s all any of us have. Except for grace, of course. We always have that.

I need your grace

The Muslim mystic and poet Rumi once wrote, “You will wake up tomorrow alone and afraid.”

No one holds on to enlightenment/salvation for very long. Even those trying hardest to know God (and I don’t claim to be one of those trying the hardest) are slipping in and out of a sense of God’s presence and peace many times through a day. That’s why everyone will eventually burst your bubble, and why it takes so much practice to learn to live in a state of grace.

That’s why I need your grace. When you come to my church and are fascinated with the sermon, but I let you down after the service by not being this way or that, I need from you the very grace that I just preached to you about.

When I speak and teach and write about love, but I say and do things sometimes that don’t seem very loving, I need grace.

When I write a blog post that says more than you care to know, or feels desperate, or reaching, I need grace.

After all, the only real claim I have ever made for myself, in any role, is that I’ll always try to have the courage to at least reach.

If you want to reach back, leave me a comment below. Where do you need grace?

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  • Oh yes! I so need grace. I need grace as someone in christian ministry, who fails and is so aware of my own shortcomings on every topic I seem to be led to ever preach about! I walk in God’s grace. I need grace in my work as a dramatherapist with teens in foster care. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I wonder where we’re going. If only I’d said… or done… or what on earth do I do now? I need grace when I’m down, grace in the moments when my testimony is one of battle and not of victory (in whatever area) Most of all, right now, I think I need grace to be “allowed” to explore theological differences. I need grace from those who disagree with me. I need the grace to be allowed to be considered wrong, but to still be loved.

    • Amen, and amen, Rachel.

    • Rachel —

      I came to believe years ago that our most powerful ministry to others is when our testimony is one of battle and not victory. One of the great strengths of your blog is that you seem to be fairly comfortable staying honest in that space. I appreciate that in you and it’s something I”m trying to do here as well.

      • Thanks David. I’m sure that’s true. If we only talk of victory then I guess that often seems so unachievable to those listening. It’s in the being real that people can identify and it’s the experience that often means so much more than mere words. I certainly seek to be honest and authentic. Sometimes it’s scary! But it’s also exciting and freeing.

  • Laura

    I need grace when I cannot remember to be quiet and listen, to others talking to me, and most of all, to God. I need grace when I struggle with self-image and self worth.

    • For sure, Laura. We all do…

    • Yes, Laura — for sure. Dallas Willard defines grace as “God working in your life.” Under tath definition, where do we NOT need it?! Thanks for your honesty.

  • Ame

    It’s just hard for me to ask for things especially when I don’t feel as if I’m “worthy”. We were having a discussion this week about God “dishing” out trials and about our choices putting us in places where what happens to us are a result of those choices. I struggle a lot with that, just because I spend a lot of times feeling rejected, but I didn’t choose to be put up for adoption….

    This feeling of rejection puts me at odds with God’s love and grace. I just don’t feel like I deserve any of it.

  • Beth

    I need grace most where I pretend not to need it. I need grace for dishonesty, irresponsibility, and pride. I also need grace for instances where I judge others, and in doing so, fail to extend grace to those I love. So, I need grace where I lack grace!

    • Ame

      I totally understand where you’re coming from. I don’t think I pretend not to need grace though. I just don’t think I deserve it.

    • Good stuff, Beth. Thanks!

    • It can’t be any other way, Beth. We all need grace precisely in those places where we find it hardest to extend to others. Thanks for reading and commenting.