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Accepting Grace Doesn’t Always Look Graceful

Published:
January 16, 2024
January 15, 2024
Read this article to learn how God's grace is vital in the messy process of healing.

Many of us carry the weight of intergenerational family trauma, the scars of abuse, the burden of addiction, or the haunting shadows from tragic life events or active combat. Broken experiences, broken people, and broken hearts touch our lives, leaving us grappling with the complexities of mental and emotional health. Despite the help of resources like counseling, faithful prayer, regular church attendance, and supportive environments, the journey toward self-care and well-being can feel irreversibly messy and hopelessly disfigured.

We may fervently seek God's intervention for peace, a glimpse of progress, and, dare we hope, joy. However, amidst our struggles, we question whether any part of our lives aligns with a divine plan. When we look around, we can fool ourselves into thinking that no one else has similar unseen battles, or if they do, they are doing a much more graceful job of facing them.

Here is the truth. Experiencing a life filled with God's grace goes beyond unrealistic ideals of gracefulness. It is not packaged neatly for TikTok or Instagram or the privileged sensibilities of those who have never had to experience (or would admit to) this sort of mental pain.

Being full of grace involves allowing ourselves to be sustained just enough by God's strength and courage for this day — here and now. It is being infused with the will to take one more courageous step toward truth, love, and mercy. Much like Christ bearing his cross on the journey to Calvary, these steps can be messy, ugly, and disfigured. We will fall numerous times and need help, but just like Christ, despite our sufferings and a very real death to self, we will see, in time, a resurrection and, in hindsight, the beauty of the journey that was made — scars and all.

Here are four ways to affirm you are on the right path, whether you are on the healing journey yourself or in a committed relationship supporting someone on a healing journey.

Root yourself in truth and honest communication

Healing from mental illness requires remaining faithfully committed to the honest feedback of experienced and truth-centered counselors, trusted loved ones, and yourself (including the subtle clues of your body). When we slow down and take the time to observe our situation and our responses honestly, we can recognize what the next step forward needs to be. Are we courageous enough to do it, inviting God's grace to carry us through each step, or do we make excuses and pretend that things are other than they are out of fear or habit? Root yourself in accurately and articulately describing what you feel and what you need. Do this courageously, recording it all in a journal if you do not have a safe person to confide in. This rootedness in truth is like a compass pointing true north and will guide you no matter how messy things seem.

Be patient with how long it takes to assess, sort, and heal

Healing from mental illness is a complex, multi-layered journey that takes time for the mind and heart. Most of us who have survived significant trauma did so by ignoring and repressing as much as we could. Consequently, when we begin the healing journey, it's like opening an overstuffed closet where we've shoved EVERYTHING (good, useful, joyful, bad, sad, and worthless) out of sight and out of mind over the years. Now, as adults, we need to be able to access all the parts of ourselves to lead a meaningful life, but that means pulling everything back out of that overstuffed, dark, and intimidating closet. It means months of assessing and sorting to determine what is of value, what needs to be properly processed, and what needs to be tossed or forgotten — all supporting the incremental work of personal healing.

Surround yourself with people who support your journey

There is so little in life we get to truly choose. We are thrown into a family of origin and country of origin and bound by what opportunities and support we have been able to utilize and receive. Ensure you have safe people you can rely on for consistent understanding and honesty. If these people aren't in your life right now, find them. If you are surrounded by people who don't understand the healing process and have no desire to grow in that understanding, you will be holding yourself back and piling more grief onto already raw emotions. You might have to "fake it" or stay more surface-level in a job environment, school, or certain extended family situations, but this should not be your only community. Find those with the patience and emotional maturity to journey with you in love.

Avoid comparison

Although there are best practices in the healing process, comparing your healing journey to anyone else is unwise. Yes, even the faith-infused influencers online chronicling their "healing journey" will not match the exact path you need to take. In the Christmas season, we are often reminded of Mary, whom the angel Gabriel hailed as "full of grace." From overexposure to her story, we tend to overlook the reality of her situation — that she appeared anything but graceful to the people around her. In crudest terms, she was about to become an unmarried, pregnant teenager at the mercy of her fiancé. How was she full of grace? She was willing to take the next step forward in truth and love at that moment, and God took care of the rest. She trusted that the journey in front of her would lead to wholeness despite how it looked to others.

Amidst the chaos and real heartache of healing, there is hope. A hope that, despite the dysfunction, violence, and addiction still echoing through our family trees and immediate experience, a new life can emerge over time — one marked by incremental improvement, peace, and joy. Acknowledging our imperfections and the enduring presence of our scars, we hold onto the belief that Emmanuel, God, is with us, sees us, and loves us in every step of that journey. You are not alone.

Creators:
Amelia Ruggaber
Published:
January 16, 2024
January 15, 2024
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