Skip to main content


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.


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.

Popular posts from this blog

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…

job hunting

I am on the hunt for a job. PhD in hand, I am a theologian for hire. The thing is, not a lot of places are hiring theologians these days, and if they are, they are usually looking for scholars with skills and experience outside my area of expertise. Today I found job opportunities for those knowledgeable in Religion, Race, and Colonialism, Philosophy and History of Religion, Islam and Society, Languages of Late Antiquity, Religion, Ethics, and Politics, and an ad for a Molecular Genetic Pathologist. Not one posting for a Dramatic Theologian with  a side order of Spirituality and a dash of Methodology.

I know, I know. My expectations are a bit unrealistic if I believe I will find an exact match for my particular skills. I know that job descriptions are wish lists to some extent, so no candidate is ever a perfect match. I also realize that one must adapt one's skill set according to the requirements of the job and be flexible. But there are so few jobs which come within ten or even…

building the church

Imagine two scenarios: 1) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Ask them to come together and put their sticks onto a table. Invariably, you end up with a random pile of sticks on a table. 2) Give every person in the room a popsicle stick. Show a picture of a popsicle stick bird feeder and ask people to come together and put their sticks on a table according to the picture. You will end up with the beginnings of a bird feeder on a table.

What is the difference between the two scenarios? In both, each person brought what they had and contributed it to the collective. However, in the first scenario, there were no guidelines, no plan, and no right or wrong way to pile the sticks. People came, placed their sticks on the table, and walked away. In the second scenario, people were given a plan to follow and as a result, something specific was built. Instead of walking away after they made their contribution, people huddled around the table to watch what was being built. Some were…