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A Grace-Dependent Life

1, 2, 3 drinks. It’s all gone blurry and I can’t find my way to the bathroom. The lights flash, the music screams, my head spins. Each step is a process, a decision, an effort to stay off the ground.

“Where’s the bathroom, I’ve got to pee.” I slur.

“You’re standing in front of it.” He says.

Holding the wall and every stranger along the way, I finally get the stall open. The sides rock and come in closer- this is a carousel, a ship. My stomach comes undone. The mirror is cracked and my sense of mind even more. Stickers and graffiti pollute the view, but I can see enough to know I can’t really see. Two blue eyes and short boy hair that will take at least two years to grow out. I adjust my shirt the best I know how and stumble out.

“Give me one more.” (No one stops me, why didn’t they stop me?) I don’t tip, can’t add $2.25 plus $1.00. Looks around for help but no one comes. Tip $0.00. Total $2.25.

With the lean of the body and the clumsy sway of unsteady arms, I tell him, the one with the long unwashed hair and EBay boots that I want to kiss. He smiles and says no. Thank God he says no.

Sitting down, letting the world spin for a moment. Drinking from a stranger’s cup, smoking cigarettes to sober up. The one sitting next to me starts talking and my slow mind tries to trek.

“I’m a Philosophy student.” He brags.

My eyes roll, “I hate Philosophy people.”

“Time to go home. My stomach hurts.” I say. We walk three blocks west. I throw up twice, ruin my favorite shoes and beg to pay for a cab. My friends say no.

The next night I sit in an unfamiliar room with different people. One friend, the good one, with the long curly hair starts a monologue, “I don’t understand why people even drink and get drunk. It’s so foolish. I’ve never even had a desire to go out and do something so juvenile.”

I remember saying things like that too, with a tone of piety and without mercy. And now, I find myself in a different place. In a world where I can see the mess I’ve made of myself- can think of a handful of broken promises I once made. In one night, I became all the things I swore to never become.

On Sunday, I wake up a new person and think these thoughts:

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It’s easy to go on, speaking eloquent words about grace, especially when we don’t have to go before God asking for it. It’s easy to believe in grace, to believe in the gospel, when there have been relatively few blemishes along the way. It’s easy to repent of something like a lack of discipline, because after you ask for forgiveness you can conjure up a five-step plan of success. We can whip ourselves into being disciplined, with the help of God and our own strength. What isn’t easy is totally blowing it—putting on display our inability to be perfect. When you find yourself, dirty and messy and never whom you thought you’d be, that’s when you understand grace. And when you understand grace, that’s when you turn from the things that break you.

The most difficult part in all of this is that we have to go to God completely empty-handed and receive what can never be earned. It’s stunning to finally get to the place where we believe that no matter how often we pray, fast, meditate, study, and so forth, we will never ever be perfect.

It’s hard to live out a grace dependent life; we want to get to heaven by the work of our own two hands. It’s a hard pill to swallow- being really helpless and needy before the sight of God. He is not for feeling good or for comfort, but rather for life itself.

“Never forget where you came from and never forget what you’re capable of.”

May we refuse to forget where we came from and what we are capable of. May our words and actions be drenched in humility as we acknowledge our profound tendency to fall and sleep in the muck. Lastly, may we not believe the horrible lie that we will one day earn enough merit to get to Heaven. Let us lay our trophies down.

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.  -Galatians 6:1-5 (MSG)

McKenzie Parker currently lives and goes to school in Orlando, Florida. She enjoys good flannels, microeconomics and boba tea. She also believes in the kind of grace that pushes us toward holiness.

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