Only By Grace

A couple months ago I was talking with my mentor. And I was telling her that going to church was really hard. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to go to mass. I had one day off a week and I wanted to spend it in my underwear watching tv – I didn’t want to leave the house and I definitely didn’t want to dress for church. And there were definitely weeks where I didn’t go to church and I didn’t pray or rather I didn’t sit down with my bible and journal and pray in the way that I usually do. So I was telling her about all of this and she gave an interesting response.

She said something to the effect of: “Amber you’ve done hard things. You’ve pushed through nursing school and done things you don’t feel like doing because it’s what you had to do. You have, at times, white knuckled your  way through nursing school. Living out this way of life is hard and sometimes you just have to white-knuckle your way through.”

Which at the time, that was maybe what I needed to hear and the only thing I would be receptive to because it was a concept I could wrap my brain around. Yeah, I do hard things. I run long distances — I’ve completed 3 half marathons, I can go to church even when I don’t feel like it. I took 5 1/2 years to complete nursing school and I persevered all along the way, with all the hurdles I had to figure out how to jump.

But we were missing an entire component of the Christian life with this concept of white-knuckling it through the hard patches, the dry spells — grace and the cross.

When I read today’s Gospel (Mt 5:17-37) my initial reaction was ugh this is a hard reading. It’s a reading of rules and of truth, of the standard set before us. It’s one of those gospel readings we sometimes want to forget exists and glaze through when it comes up in the reading rotation because it reminds us just how imperfect and weak we are. … it reminds us just how much we need a savior.

19b2d856c30b01249e474adeb60acb97But the thing is – we need moments like that to remind us why we need to Jesus. In the homily today the priest started talking about how these standards and rules set before are impossible if we try to live them on our own. If we could live them out by our own strength we wouldn’t have need of the cross, we wouldn’t have need of grace.

Now, back track to my story with my mentor. A few weeks after that meeting, my small group leader shared with us a reflection from a book she was reading that talked about how when living the faith is hard, when life as a whole is hard that is a time to lean into grace even more.

A priest…no, multiple priests, have told me that often times when things are hard, it is a period of great growth. Which evokes mixed thoughts in the moments of hearing them, but in the spot I’m in now I can see growth. I know I’m still growing, I know I’m still learning so much, especially about myself right now. But I can see that there is growth happening.

The foundation to having a relationship with Jesus is trust. Christianity is all about a relationship with the persons of the trinity – Father, Son, and Spirit. If we are building a relationship with God, we are spending time with Him. We are building a foundation of trust, so that when we face the trials and challenges of life we are anchored in Him.

So when the going gets tough, when faith is hard and you don’t want to show up don’t white-knuckle your way through because the reality is, when we are white-knuckling we are relying on our own strength to do something we can only do by grace. When faith is hard lean more into grace. Rely more on the strength of the Lord. We cannot keep these commandments on our own strength,  but only by grace. Only by trusting that the Lord has our greatest good in mind. Only by his mercy can we ever hope to attempt to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, body, mind, strength.

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