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May 19, 2009

Walking With Grace When You Have No Grace

We've all encountered those moments in ministry and life when we feel spent, empty, with nothing else to give. Maybe lived on exhaust one gasp too long. Maybe burning the candle on both ends and in the middle wasn't such a great idea. Maybe a series of sleepless nights got the best of us. Whatever the cause, we have nothing left to give and for just a few more hours - whether it's a Sunday service, a Wednesday night gathering, or the conference that still has a day to wrap up - we must hang on. But to what?

I've encountered this scenario all too often, and despite multiple attempts to schedule more downtime, be more intentional about rest, carve out time with Jesus every day, and live a healthy-paced life, there are still times that things outside of our control push us to the point of exhaustion. How do we walk with grace when we have no grace?

1.Take a deep breath. Sometimes a few deep breaths and a moment of prayer behind a closed door or even a closet door can make a huge difference.

2. Cling to the Scripture. Whether it's the reminder that "I can do all things through Christ who strengths me" or "Fear not for I have redeemed you", the Word of God can empower us when our energy level is at its lowest.

3. Grab caffeine cautiously. I used to opt for the latte whenever I felt exhaustion settling in and all too often upgraded to the grande. The problem is that while the extra boost helped get me through the moment it often lasted longer than I needed it - sometimes interrupting that night's sleep. Now if I reach for a latte, I order the smallest size and try to only drink half.

4. Know and "no" your limits. When I'm tired, sometimes I'll get roped into saying "yes" to things that I would never have committed to any other time. Other times I'll find myself roped into long involved conversations where I'm only half-listening. Slowly, I'm learning to know my limits and be more honest with people. I'll let them know that I'm exhausted and would love to continue the conversation at a later time when I can give the other person the attention they deserve. Other times I'll just ask for time to think about whatever they're asking rather than offering a kneejerk response.

5. Don't be afraid to vote yourself off the island. Sometimes you may feel you really need to be at a gathering or event (and you probably should be!), but your actual presence is more of a detriment than asset. That's why it's important to know when you need to vote yourself off the island and excuse yourself. A loving support staff and community will guard and protect you so you can give and serve out of a full tank rather than an empty one. In excusing yourself, you may end up empowering others to do the same and the depth and impact of all your team does may increase as a result.


Good advice for us all. I was just bothered with the question of "How do we walk in grace when we have no grace?" That perception can be the very thing that puts us over the edge. Just knowing that the God of all grace dwells within us and His grace never runs dry gives us enough grace to recognize our condition. Adjusting grace enables us to adjust our schedules and cut back on something. Coping grace allows us to get through the event or day till we can refuel. Refraining grace allows us to say "no" as you so graciously shared. It's grace every step of the way. Learning grace teaches us to learn from our experiences and schedule more margins in our lives.
God's grace is as available as the mention of His name. His grace is limitless so we can always walk in grace -- even when we feel or think we're on empty. It is in these experiences of feeling empty that God's grace shines.

Wow, how timely! And have I been there. With Easter services, Mother's Day and my own son having just graduated high school, I feel as if my life has just been placed in a blender and someone has pushed the 'frappe' button! Only what comes pouring out isn't a smoothie at all but something unrecognizable and definitely not full of grace. My husband and I pastor together but finances have forced him to take two outside jobs to make ends meet; therefore I am now janitor, counselor, maintenance wo'man' on top of worship leader, children's ministry director, Adult Bible Study Leader, etc. - we've all been there. But instead of people allowing my to vote myself 'off the island' for some things and volunteer to take up the slack it seems they expect even more and I have absolutely no time for ministry because I'm completely emptied out by all the necessary but time consuming tasks. Maybe I just needed to read steps 1 and 2 to know that when I don't think anyone even understands or cares I have Jesus. I still have His loving grace when I am unlovely and I am sure He misses me even more lately than I miss Him.

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