Who could have known that more would make us feel like less? Erin Loechner wrestled with the ideas of more, fast, busy, then started chasing slow, then actually slowed. Erin has a unique voice. Calm. Reassuring. Erin is passionate about slow living, mold breaking and window-down, top-of-the-lung car singing. It’s a grace to welcome Erin to the farm’s front porch today…
I used to confuse the words grace and goodwill.
I would read the front page of CNN.com and wonder how grace abounds for the killers, the gunmen, the liars, the thieves.
These people do not warrant goodwill. Their actions are not justifiable. When judged, their sins far outweigh their good behavior, tip the scale far in the direction of undeserving.
So I’d try to give them a free pass. I’d try to envision their lives as difficult, as broken.
I’d remind myself that hurt people hurt people, that we’re all in this together, doing our best, fighting hard battles, winning some and losing most.
And I’d wish them goodwill. I’d offer them what I thought was grace.
Hurt people do hurt people.
We’re all fighting hard battles.
These are worthy perspectives.
This is not grace.
Grace is not giving someone else a free pass because they’ve had a hard day. Grace is not giving yourself a free pass because you’ve had a hard day. Grace is not explaining away our bad behavior, then shrugging our shoulders and saying, “Hey, what’re you gonna do? It is what it is. Who wants ice cream?”
Sure, I want the free pass. But this is me justifying an action—someone else’s or my own—by offering goodwill. This is me searching for an explanation that I can understand instead of accepting the one I will never be able to understand.
That we have already been forgiven.
That we have already been set free.
Still, I offer my version of grace:
You did this wrong, but look, you did that right. Don’t beat yourself up. Here, have a fig leaf. Would you like some tea? Can I get you anything?
God’s version of grace is this:
You did this wrong, but look, I did this right. You have everything you need now. Follow Me in peace. Go now in freedom.
Walk now in abundance.
Grace is giving yourself a free pass and realizing that it isn’t free at all.
Grace is giving someone else a free pass and realizing God has already passed His along.
To all of us.
His name is Cam. He comes into the coffee shop where I write each day, and he is—how shall I put this?—strenuous. Cam is legally blind, and he strides into the coffee shop in his long braids and navy bandana and drops next to me, begins his barrage of questions. Each morning, it is the same.
Cam: “Whatcha your name, lady?”
Erin: . . .
Erin: “Cam, you know me! We do this every morning.”
Cam: “Ha, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we do. Hey. Wouldya look somethin’ up for me?”
Erin: “The Yankees ranking?” [Also insert Amazon’s customer service phone number or anything Hillary Clinton.]
When I’m in the middle of a paragraph and anxious to get home to Bee, Cam’s infinite questions are taxing. He’s charming . . . and annoying. But I am learning to smile when he interrupts my thought to tell me the knock-knock joke about the banana (“Orange you glad?”) for the third time this week.
But a few weeks ago, he told me something else.
“Woman, did ya know I’m schizophrenic?” he said.
I asked him if he was being serious, and I asked him not to call me woman.
“Ah, I’m sorry, Karen,” he said. “But yeah, for real!”
And he told me that’s why he couldn’t get grace. He’d done too many things wrong, that the bad guys in him keep screwing with the good guys in him. “And woman,” he says, “the bad dudes just keep on winnin’.”
I don’t think he’s talking about grace. I think he’s talking about goodwill.
I often hear women, in the church aisle or at the coffee shop or in passing at the grocery store, beating themselves up.
We’re good at this.
We’re great at swimming in guilt, gifted at wading the waters of our own regret, mistakes, missteps.
When we’re not covering ourselves with fig leaves to mask our sins, we’re covering ourselves with guilt to bear our punishment.
We’ve been found guilty of spending too much time on our phones, of spending too much money at Target, of spending too little time on meal planning.
We say the wrong things at the right time, or the right things at the wrong time.
We’re too much and we’re too little and we wonder if we’ll ever be enough. If we’ll ever deserve favor.
We’ve been tried, and we are guilty of it all.
Surely we don’t deserve goodwill?
But goodwill is not what we have been promised.
What we have been promised is grace.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Cam is still blind. He’s still schizophrenic. He’s still beating himself up on some days, still asking about Hillary and the Yankees nearly every morning.
But these are questions I can figure out.
These are questions with answers I can find. And answering them with patience is a small bit of goodwill I can afford.
And so, every morning, I am learning to offer goodwill. (Mostly.)
And every morning, God offers grace.
To both of us.
It’s kind of amazing, really.
Erin Loechner is the author of Chasing Slow and founder of Design for Mankind. Erin has been blogging and speaking for more than a decade. Her heartfelt writing and design work has been showcased in The New York Times, People and the Huffington Post. Erin also had her own HGTV.com web special for two seasons. Now nestled in a Midwestern town, Erin, her husband, and their children strive for less in most areas except three: joy, grace, and goat cheese.
In Chasing Slow, Erin turns away from fast and fame and frenzy. Follow along as she blazes the trail toward a new-fashioned lifestyle—one that will refresh your perspective, renew your priorities, and shift your focus to the journey that matters most. Through a series of steep climbs—her husband’s brain tumor, bankruptcy, family loss, and public criticism—Erin learns just how much strength it takes to surrender it all, and to veer right into grace.
[ Our thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]