Life isn’t easy, and it certainly doesn’t go the way we plan.
During the campaign launch for the book, Kara is inviting you to share your stories of everyday grace in the midst of life’s difficulties. Simply submit the link to your story below via the link-up, then stop by others’ stories to leave encouragement and offer prayers as we all travel the journey of life together and discover that the hardest peace is often the most fulfilling peace.
Good Things that Feel the Opposite
by Amy Lathrop
The subtitle to Kara Tippetts’ book, The Hardest Peace, is “expecting grace in the midst of life’s hard.” Life’s hard. Not a whiney kind of life is hard (And don’t get me wrong, it is—very hard sometimes.), but grace in the midst of the hard. The tough moments, the broken moments, the no-going-back moments.
If you don’t know Kara’s story, she has cancer and a husband and a family and a life. What I loved about her book was the way it touches on each of our stories. Each of our circumstances vary, we are all at different stages of life, but we are all in need of grace. Grace for the hard stuff and the everyday stuff. Grace to love and live and be.
This has been a year of hard for me. Big changes, disappointments, sorrows, and endings. Heartbreak.
But, too, in the middle of that breaking, I have known grace, mercy, goodness, and freedom. I have seen it face-to-face.
At this time last year I was facing a monumental decision that seemed impossible to make. I was stuck in fear and condemnation, burdened with a multitude of responsibilities that were not mine to carry. I picked them up one-by-one throughout the years, adding to my ever-expanding pack. I got this, God. I can do it. Jesus, you just come along with me and see what I can do. I can save. Heal. Fix.
The more I picked up, the heavier I felt. More numb. Isolated. Afraid. Then began the unexplained shortness of breath and tightness in my chest. It would happen while driving to the grocery store, laying down to sleep, eating dinner with my family, or folding clothes. The panic would seize me unannounced and pass. In those moments I breathed as deep as I could, trying to regain alright-ness. I needed to be alright because everything else was wrong. I tried to connect the dots, but there wasn’t any connection between what I was doing in the moment and those feelings of panic.
My body was trying to get my attention, to tell me I was drowning in my isolation, my stick-to-itiveness. That my life had become more than I could handle on my own. And it had been that way for a long time—too long. For the first time in my life I could not be an overcomer. I could not strap on my Jesus boots and wade out of the sinkhole. Hope, long-deferred, had caused a crack to spider through my soul and I knew I had lost my way. I needed to finally stop and let Jesus come to me.
And I did. I just stopped. Stopped trying to be better, do more, try harder, fix the unfixable. I began to unfurl. To unclench my fists, to breathe deeper, and most importantly to let God’s people speak into my life. I needed community. Disconnected, disjointed, but united in their love for Jesus and in their love for me. I needed the Church. I needed to begin to share my story and to let myself be known. I needed to move out of isolation in order to become visible.
At the beginning I didn’t know that was what I needed. I just reached out to the one person who seemed the safest: a stranger. A Christian therapist, who encouraged me to reach out to a friend. And I did. Someone barely known, but in a similar situation. Next to an older couple who’d already been walking by my side for years, then my pastor, and then others. Many others. I needed people to reflect an un-warped version of me to myself.
Oh, sweet Jesus. I finally learned to let myself be the loved, instead of being the constant lover. To let myself be known and seen. To come out of hiding and be visible. To let others help me, instead of always being the helper. Slowly my defenses fell, my justifications, my self-salvation began to drop away. In doing so I faced my “hard,” and through it I found peace (something akin to wholeness). I heard the Spirit whisper of freedom, and I felt grace in midst of all my wrong.
In the year-long process of making an impossible decision and giving in to all that unfolded, I began to expect God to break things, wreck them, so he could rebuild and heal. I know this is His grace to us, that He does not leave us where we’re not supposed to be, He always comes to find us. He never stops pursuing us. He exposes, not to shame, but to heal. And in that there is a blessed safety. Rest.
Wrecked to heal. I think of Paul on the road to Damascus – he had no idea what was coming for him. No idea that Jesus was waiting for him with the sole purpose of wrecking the life Paul had worked so carefully and proudly to build. Though the wrecking feels anything but, it is good. Jesus wrecked and then mended Paul in a matter of moments. Jesus would do this kindness for Paul but also for the multitude who would hear his teaching and read his words. People like me and you.
In surrendering to the “wrecking” of what I had held so long and dearly, I’ve begun to see myself in relation to my story, my God, and His people. As I stopped beholding my idea of where my life was headed, and began to behold Jesus, I am being conformed to his image of holiness and obedience. I am breathing deep in freedom and beginning to embrace who God has created me to be. Amy. (Even my name means beloved, fit to be loved.)
In the wreckage, I saw God’s goodness. Like Kara, I have learned to live in that space where both heartache and sweetness exist. I have heard and finally believed what He’s been whispering all-along — that when I am visible, I am stunning. Letting ourselves be known is the only way we can image His light to one another and to the world. It is there that we experience the freedom to be who God created us to be. Where we can bless and be blessed.
What about you? Where have you seen evidences of God’s grace in the midst of your HARD? Are you letting yourself been seen and known? Are you letting your self-made constructs be “wrecked”? Are you being mended in community? Do you struggle allowing yourself to be stunning and/or rest in who God’s created you to be?