by Donna Jones
As I sit in my post-transitional-divorce apartment, my mind freely wonders to the words of a devotional I read before the sun greeted the day. It is one of my favorite devotionals, by Oswald Chambers. I remember posting it online a few years ago, and he says: ‘is that God does not give us overcoming life, but life as we overcome’. I truly wanted to hold on to that during a very dark and challenging time of my life. As I reflect back, maybe I did mentally hold on for a while, but I realise now that it wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t enough because with a new retired life as a nursing student at still a relatively young age, two teenage boys and a disintegrating 17-year marriage – my heart, mind and spirit was overwhelmed with many other things. The best moment came when I realised that my experience was filled with a willfully hanging on to life. This is what I have been doing since July 2015 once I retired from my 23 – year career. It took two years to realise that willfully hanging on to life is not allowing God to give me life to overcome. In fact, it happened something quite opposite: life was sucked out of me every day, walls closed in and I was spiritually bankrupt. I guess you can say, I didn’t see that coming or was even aware I was in such a state of spiritual fragmentation. But now I feel as the song Amazing Grace resonates throughout my heart what grace really means.
That is exactly what I grappled with the wee hours of the morning. Is grace different then spiritual initiative? Why couldn’t I disengage from “willfully hanging on to life”? After all, I was self-preserving throughout the sea of difficulties that had befallen on me. Wasn’t my hanging on the same as having a life as I overcame because I was enduring the difficulties? What I discovered is that it simply was NOT. I had thrown myself into another demanding career with crazy long hours, drank wine to assuage my feelings and became more and more disjointed and disenchanted with my life. But still I hung on until something amazing happened to me, which at the time came at a time of spiritual drought.
That something is what I call grace. At the beginning of this New Year I stopped working, drinking, fretting and simply made what occurred to me was space for grace. When I stopped, or more like hit the wall – something spiritually shifted without any big act of willpower from me. I surrender to myself and then to God. He took care of the rest. My surrendering crestfallen heart had made space for grace. Over the weeks, I unwrapped this gift of grace slowly. I soon discovered that was all I had to do – let it unfold and do the next right thing in front of me. I didn’t have to hang on to anything but God’s love and grace. I didn’t have to think, plan or hang on to dear life. All I need to do was make the space in my heart by admitting I was not doing a good job with my life and the space for grace. This space for grace allowed spiritual bareness to overflow with spiritual abundance.
So back to my question – is grace the same as spiritual initiative?
Grace is not the same as spiritual initiative but rather grace is the catalyst towards spiritual initiative. Both are gifts; however grace is needed to illuminate the gift of spiritual initiative.
It a like having a lamp without the light bulb. The lamp can bring a room full of light only if it has a light bulb screwed into the base. Grace is the light bulb and the light it produces is my spiritual initiative. The most important thing I learned was that each new day and especially each new season of my life, I must make space for grace especially in my broken and weariness – lampstands and light bulbs only illuminate dark spaces. Have you made space for grace today? If so, what would that feel like today? How would it make a difference in your life?
About the author: Donna Maria is a retired armed forces veteran with active duty service, certified personal trainer, a health coach, and RN with a Masters of Science in Health and Human Performance. She has a passion for health and wellness and has dedicated her time to writing about the mind-body spiritual connection. Her aim is to help her students to understand and become aware of their inner balance so they can reach their true potential in life – it is never too late, and a person is never too broken to come back even stronger than they were before. She currently lives in Gulfshores and has two older teenage sons.