Growing up, I spent a lot of time in ballet classes. Pink tights, with a seam down the back. Black leotards. Pink, leather ballet slippers with an elastic strap to hold them in place. Some of my earliest memories rise up to meet me from the hardwood floors and mirrored walls and barres onto which we gently placed our hands while practicing battement dégagé. Barre work was my favorite, followed closely by port de bras, practiced in the center of the room—arms moving through the air in sweeping arcs and extensions. Shoulders down and back, ribcage lifted, belly strong, back straight. And make your arms look as if they never want to end. On and on.
Ballet taught me about grace. The kind of grace you carry around with you in your limbs and in the way you hold your head and in the way your legs turn out a bit from the hip. Ballet taught me to walk lightly into the world and to be confident with my light steps. Ballet taught me to soar, and then to land without a sound.
Ballet grace isn’t the only kind of grace. And, like ballet grace, this other grace doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t arrive at the front door with an instruction manual and color-coded labels. It is hard work to get to grace. Sometimes, there is sweat involved, and it gathers itself in a puddle on the floor at your slippered feet—feet worn raw from all the twirling and the learning to land without a sound.
It is easier to navigate the world with heavy steps and hands that fold themselves into fists, instead of reaching reaching reaching…
Grace calls us to walk a different way. We fall into grace, and for most of us, we discover grace at the end of a long road filled with trying and striving and holding grudges and wondering why and what for. This is the grace of God: rising up to meet us when we finally lose our grip and wonder who will catch us, now that we are falling.
And there is this, too: the grace we say around the table—reaching out our hands to complete the circle while peeking through squinted eyelids to watch the candle flicker while gratitude is spoken and thanks is given. “Say grace,” we say.
I don’ t know when I realized these three iterations of grace are all the same—that they come from the same place and go to the same place. The soft way we move through space while we inhabit the earth, the grace we extend to and receive from one another—especially in tough conversations or difficult seasons, and the grace of gratitude spoken with a bowed head and quiet voice, acknowledging the goodness of God’s constant provision and simple gifts toward us.
Grace is more than just one thing. It originates with God in his reaching reaching reaching toward us. Unending. We slip our arms through grace’s sleeves and wrap ourselves in its soft and gentle ways. Grace transforms us first, and sometimes leaves puddles on the floor at our feet. We can’t step into the calling or the purpose or the dream we’d like to live for God without first stepping into grace. I am convinced of this.
The places God calls us to require grace, no matter where our calling takes us. At the office, in the carpool lane, behind the pulpit, at the keyboard. When grace is missing, it’s noticeable. Surely, you have seen it when it happens. Maybe you’ve been a practitioner of God’s calling without first stepping into grace. I know I have. It wasn’t pretty.
But grace steps in, even then. Thank God for grace.
Take grace with you as you go. Let grace animate your leaving and remaining. Steep your calling and your every day ordinary everything in grace. Be filled with it. Be generous with it. Be grateful for how it makes a difference in all of everything.
Some questions for you: Have you tried to move forward into your calling without remembering to step into grace? And, have you also remembered grace? What difference does grace make? Which of these three iterations of grace feels the most familiar to you?
Will you join us in May at JumpingTandem: The Retreat? Grace is our theme—in all of its iterations. We’d love to see you there and shower grace on you.