“Some things don't need to be cut back. They need to be cut off.”
I want to talk about the parts of messy grace that are... messy. The things that don't seem graceful, so we try to avoid talking about them. The part of living that makes us look very, very human. I know you get me. You wouldn't be here if you didn't.
It would be easy for us to assume that grace means letting people walk on us, or letting them abuse us. Because we tend to make grace sound more like weak, small, codependency, its hard for us to reconcile our hearts to the idea that sometimes grace is God getting in our way. Sometimes grace is a traffic ticket. Sometimes grace is the painful call to the light when we've been living in darkness. Sometimes grace for US means cutting off old, toxic relationships. And that means someone is left feeling like grace was absent.
Here's something I know. We are messy creatures. We entangle ourselves in all kinds of ridiculousness. We often find ourselves in crazy situations, surrounded by very unhealthy people. In some ways, we must be just as unhealthy, cause we got ourselves there. But grace gets us out.
We can't own anyone else's mess. That's their's and it needs to stay that way. We can own our own mess. Finding the line between the two can often be almost impossible. Because human beings are so relationshional, we tend to let our responsibility blend with everyone else's. When I was in Mending the Soul I was asked to define two situations: one where I have experienced toxic shame (where I was carrying shame that belonged to someone else for something they had done to me), and one where I have experienced healthy shame (where I was feeling conviction for something I had done).
I couldn't do it.
I wanted to, but I really, truly didn't know the difference. And now we all know why I'm such a mess ;)
Staying stuck and toxic is not grace, friends. Owning other people's shame is not grace. Living out unhealthy patterns and relationships is not grace. Not for you. Not for the other person. Sometimes grace isn't obvious. It is quiet and deep. We may not even notice it until years later. Sometimes grace is letting go and cutting off. Sometimes grace is walking away.
Because God is a God of health. God's word cuts to the marrow. He is kind, but he's not soft. He is safe, but he's not tame. Are you tracking?
Grace is not a manipulation. Grace is not bending to abuse or power posturing. Grace is fierce and strong. Grace is the kind of kindness that requires change. Grace is the kind of love that demands that everything comes into the light. Grace is powerful. It is never toxic. It is always convicting.
This is why grace is messy. In our chaotic way of living, we are going to have to make hard decisions that make some people very angry. We are going to have to step back in order to consider our motives and actions. We are going to have to evaluate our own patterns and make the kinds of decisions that will define us.
It isn't about the other person, friend. Drawing a safe boundary isn't always to keep people out. It's mostly to keep you in. The space you were created for is holy and safe. You were designed to be free. It's in your makeup. It is God's original intention for you. Every single person is invited into that free space with you, but if they aren't just as free, they will naturally fall to the other side of the boundary. Keep your gates intact, allowing room for people to come and go. Know that there is nothing to be ashamed of. You are owning YOU. Keep moving forward, creating space for grace with every step.
It's hard as crap. I know. I'm living it too. We're weighing the fullness of grace these days - you and me. Let's not get discouraged and fall back. If you need to evaluate what grace is looking like right now, do it. Know this: grace is always rooted in love. Grace is not hatred or wanting to hurt someone else. Grace is choosing to let go of being responsible for someone else's well being. Grace is taking ownership of your own well being. Grace is loving someone enough to draw the line. Grace is a step away from codependency and a step towards an open door. There are no locked doors, no high and heavy walls. Grace is a fence with a gate. All are welcome, but what we find on the grace side requires some sacrifice. Not everyone will be willing to pay that price. Will you?