Monday, March 31, 2008

ch-ch-ch-changes

Yes. It is possible.

This past week was a challenging one for me. I was battling some form of exhaustion which left me weak in body and mind and spirit. Nevertheless, I had French classes to attend and lots of other commitments and pages of stuff to accomplish and in the midst of all that, a few situations happened that brought out the worst in me. At times like that I wonder just how much progress I have made in becoming a more mature and compassionate and spiritual person. Yes, Jesus has touched me, but I still occasionally battle with petty thoughts and immature attitudes and tantrums that any 9-year-old would be ashamed to admit to.

Someone prayed for me just over a week ago, asking that I would have more grace for myself, and that was my mantra all week...grace, grace, grace. To just walk one step forward at a time, live one moment at a time, grabbing hold of as much grace as I could reach from my lowly position and falling headlong into grace when I could not stand anymore. I prayed and pleaded and reminded God that I no longer wanted these nagging negative condemning angry thoughts running through my mind, tainting relationships and souring precious moments when I acted out on them.

Knowing I was not in the best state of mind or body, I determined not to be reactionary, but to be deliberately patient with myself and others, looking for the good and true in every situation. I staggered through a few shaky days, trying to practice graciousness where I normally would have been frustrated and pained. It was hard work, but I felt I was learning. I made a few errors, said a few things I should not have, got caught in some tornadoes of tormenting thoughts, but got back on track. Yes, some progress was being made. Thank God!

Then, last night at church, I encountered the type of situation that in the past had always caused me to feel like someone was stabbing me in the heart. I was prepared to do battle with the barrage of negative emotions and thoughts that I knew would come my way. The triggering actions were the same: people neglected to do things that were very important to me, and that should have greatly disappointed me, but I felt nothing. I was calm, smiling at the strangeness of events, not mentally distancing myself from anyone nor piling wound upon hurt upon pitiful self-righteousness. I was at peace. I kept no track of wrongs done. I adjusted my plans to suit the occasion and went on as if nothing was amiss, enjoying the moment. I found myself being uncharacteristically generous and truthful and light of heart.

And it undid me. How did this change happen? How could a destructive pattern that I have been struggling to bring under control for most of my life suddenly and inexplicably disappear from my being? It was like losing 50 pounds with one swift swish of a blade. I felt light and giddy and every so often would stop and look around, half expecting the dead weight to appear again - I had become so accustomed to it leeching off my soul. But even through a brutal game of Dutch Blitz where I was beaten at pretty much every round (a sure trigger for resentment in the past), the grace continued to anchor me to peace and security and truth and genuine delight in the company of those sitting around the table with me, no matter what the outcome was. I asked Dean if he had ever seen me act like that in such a setting, and he truthfully answered, "No."

I am still not perfect, but I know dramatic positive change is possible. I am a recipient of grace and mercy beyond anything I deserved or expected. I do not know precisely how healing comes to touch us, but I want to put myself in a position to experience it over and over again. I will pursue it with a heartfelt and beckoning, "Yes," on my lips, even before I know what it requires of me.

Nothing is impossible with this God, this one who has loved me to himself.

This is a photo of some very vintage wallpaper at St. Stephen's University in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. Someday it will be changed as well.

3 comments:

Shelley said...

Soo Funny! not your blog, it was great. So cool when God just comes through, shows up, takes care of it. I love that.

But So funny that when your blog came up and I saw that picture I laughed and thought "that wallpaper is exactly like the wallpaper at St. Stephen's U, I will have to leave a comment. (I know, it doesn't take much to get me to leave a comment.) But when I got to the end and read the picture note I laughed out loud. Like the wallpaper at St. Stephen's indeed. lol. It is unforgettable I guess!

Shelley said...

P.S. It isn't in St. Croix, it is in St. Stephens. Love it!!

Dale recognized it too, and he has only been there once!

Matte Downey said...

Oops. Don't know why I wrote St. Croix. Oh yeah, I know now, the church in St. Stephen is called the St. Croix Vineyard. Thanks for the correction. I fixed it. Always love the comments, Shelley.

The wallpaper indeed has an impact on all who see it. They should capitalise on its unforgettableness, use it in their mottto:

Come to St. Stephen's University.
Where unforgettable truths AND wallpaper meet.