The Promise of Frustration

Life has been very much an experience of the “inbetween” lately—those days that happen after one thing ends but before the next one starts. These days can be giant lulls of empty. Standing inside my life, I begin to feel as though it is slowly shrinking. I can’t stand these kinds of days. My ideal self would be filled with expectation of the unseen, but I’m not really. Not yet. I know that those things are there, but what I can see and what I can feel is pure frustration. It’s a low-lying drone that rubs against hope and purpose and wants to bury me inside of itself.

Something asks me whether frustration isn’t a promise of new life in the air.  Perhaps it is meant to lead us to expectancy. Like a growing pain, it can be the herald of change. Frustration is telling me that I have grown and that the old life no longer fits the new me. It is telling me that seasons have ended and new ones are beginning. It’s not that my world has shrunk, it’s that I have outgrown it. When things begin to feel empty it’s because I can feel the absence of something that is about to be. God awakens a longing in anticipation of fulfillment, and we ache because it’s coming. With these eyes to see, my frustration is a misperception. Frustration is the edge of a need without the hope of an answer. If I can let discomfort adjust my focus, frustration holds a promise of things to come.

My in-between days feel bare and struggling, but they are rich and purposeful. They hold all the emptiness of transformation, all the frustration of new birth. There is a promise to my frustration that is meant to point me on. It is a moment of expectancy that has been misperceived, and if I can turn it the right way, this lull might just become a celebration…

And then there was Grace…

I’m not sure that it’s possible to graduate from the subject of grace. It has been as consistent a theme in my life as any, and the one that stands tallest when backwards gazing on what my life has become today. These days, these months–when I look at them, I see answers to what seems to have been prayers of a lifetime. These answers have come to me in adventure, surprise and poetry. But none of it has come without some kind of peril or heartache. None of it came the way I thought of it in my prayers. But the lives that make the best stories are exactly this kind. They are ones with unexpected answers–answers that come in packages we were never looking for–packages of struggle giving birth to glory, and tears that make way for song. The best of lives contain lessons learnt from unbecoming tutors.

When I look at this season, this life, I see much of this lesson learning and prayer living. But the thread that weaves through it all–the line one can put on the end of each story, or anywhere in between, is, “and then there was Grace.” It is what transitions every tragedy into beauty. It is what rearranges the chaos and calls it a life worth living. It is the “however” of life. One day, or a whole season, can turn on this word “grace”. The arrival of grace is what transforms our vision and opens up the back road of hope.

My story could go something like this: I prayed for a world of things I had never seen and knew not how to get to, and then there was grace, and grace brought me into a dream. I encountered all my fears and insecurities to live inside that world, and then there was grace that triumphed fear with love. I walked with people I loved and their battles and wounds became companions of my own journey. But then there was grace, and grace knew how to love deeper and go further. Onwards the story goes. I encountered rejection and grace showed me how not to throw away life’s sharp cuts. Grace came when I failed and came again when I ran out of space in my heart for others who had done the same. Above most other things, mine has been a journey defined by the power of grace to rewrite all that has been written.

I still catch myself whispering those words, “and then there was grace,” when I reach a moment in need of transition. I rarely know what will follow–the second part of the sentence–but I know that for every sentence that needs it, there is a “however”. There are some things in life that we need to know, and others we don’t. Knowing that there is grace is the first; what falls on the other side of grace is the second. And here, trust is so simple, so beautiful and scary, it actually makes me cry. It seems almost incomprehensible to entrust to grace what we cannot control or understand. But this grace is something so deep to rest in and I know that as it has marked the days behind me, it will continue to show up in the days ahead.

So if you ask me, or I ever ask myself, how I got here, though the story could start with a dozen different challenges or trials, you can be sure that it will always turn with the words, “and then there was grace…”