Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Merit or Grace?

Yesterday I awoke with a panicked sense of how-will-I-ever-get-everything-done-today? coursing through my veins. The sun wasn't even up yet, and already I was fretting about all the deadlines I had in my work and the seemingly limited number of hours I had to complete everything. Editors were (and are) waiting. Family members had needs and expectations. I of course had preferences about how I wanted to spend my time.

The first thing I did when I noticed that frightening refrain in my head was to pray about it and do my best to release the unknown day into the hands of the Source who is love and light and harmony. God didn't want me to have a fretful, frightened day. God knows from the span of infinity how pointless it is to give too much sway to momentary upsets. They come and go like leaves floating on water. They are best noticed, acknowledged, and acted on if necessary--but not to be taken too seriously.

After distancing myself a little from the fear (by praying about it), I was able to get some perspective on it. I realized that that panic, for me, comes from a fear of not doing what I say I will, which comes from a fear of not doing the right thing, which comes from a fear of letting people down. As I traced each level of the thought process that produced that awful feeling, I realized at that the root of it was a belief that I had to do everything right--or else. Or else what? What happens if I don't do everything right? What happens if I mess up? What happens if life intervenes and I can't possibly live up to all the obligations I have created for myself?

That's where Grace comes in. Grace isn't about earning or deserving anything. It's not about coloring in the lines, showing up prepared at a meeting, doing or saying the right thing at the right moment.

When I am reacting in fear to the many obligations I have today, I am at some deep level believing that I must do the right things in the right way to be okay. That's a belief in merit, not a belief in grace.

Doing what I say I will do is important to me, and I try to live and work in such a way that I honor that principle in my life. But when I do it out of fear, I lose touch with the world of Grace, which I believe is where God really lives--in peace, harmony, light, and the everything's-okayness that is so conspicuously missing when I'm running through my day trying to escape an imaginary, invisible stress monster that seems always at my heels.

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