In the church communities I’ve been a part of, Lent isn’t something that is observed or taught. I discovered it only a handful of years ago after coming across Alicia Britt Chole on Instagram, and the book she wrote; 40 Days of Decrease.
I’ve picked it up each year since, for Lent—enjoying the sacredness of this long-held practice from other Christian traditions—using it as a framework of setting aside this period of time to journey towards the Cross. Towards Easter. In the slow, and often painful walk toward the joy of Sunday. Each day of the forty, Dr Chole encourages a different kind of fast: today, fast regret, or today, fast rationalism.
This year I’m learning to daily fast perfectionism. I’ve laid down my ideals of ‘getting it right’, of ‘doing it properly’ and in all of it finding a God who gives so much more grace than I have ever been able to give myself.
What a God you are! Your path for me has been perfect!
All your promises have proven true.
What a secure shelter for all those who turn to hide themselves in you!
You’re the wrap-around God giving grace to me. Ps 18:30
That word used in this verse is ‘shield’ and in the Hebrew literally means ‘to wrap around in protection’.
God Himself is our protection.
And grace is a shield.
Grace shields me from the shame of not getting it right.
Grace protects me from the fear of not being good enough.
Grace covers me with the reassurance that God stretches heaven’s curtain open and comes to my defense (18:9), that He will reach down into my darkness to rescue me (18:16) that His love broke open the way, and he brings me into a a beautiful broad place (18:19).
My girls have favourite blankets, and now that the weather is cooling, these blankets are wrapped tightly around their shoulders throughout the day. They can’t do much with their hands when their arms are swaddled within the thick layers, but they forgo those things to be wrapped in warmth and comfort.
Grace, wrap-around grace, is just like this. A thick, warm layer of it that enfolds us. All the parts of us. So the parts that feel like they need to do more, or be more are simply stilled by that enfolding, encompassing grace.
And this is a comfort in this season. Because the general rhetoric is loudly saying we should use this time of isolation to do more, to be more; to get better and fitter and launch online businesses and grow followings and online gatherings and to leap lightly and easily into our new pivoted lives and truthfully? All of it leaves me feeling exhausted and overwhelmed.
I can’t keep up with the Zoom calls, and I don’t want to sit in front of a screen any more than what is a necessity and for the first time ever I’m craving a normal, everyday phone call so I don’t have to have perfect hair.
So when I read Psalm 18 in the still-dark morning today I took a great big exhale of relief that even the tree branches swayed beyond my windows.
I’m not fighting the wrapping up of all of the parts of me.
I’ll sit here, perched high and out of reach (18:48), far from the grasp of shame or performance or striving.
What would happen if we just let grace wrap us up tight?
What if we let Him lead us into that beautiful broad place?
It’s right here that there’s room for everyone. Here, the table is wide and there’s a blanket of grace to wrap around each of us, even if our hair is dirty and our skin is blemished.
So today, grace is a shield, protecting me from the lie of perfection, and ushering me into a place of beauty, vulnerability and gratitude for who I am, and who God is to me. I’m wrapping it around me like my favourite blanket, and it’s holding my arms close and I sigh with relief as it envelopes me. As He envelopes me. There’s no need for perfect here.
What do you need the shield of God’s wrap-around grace to cover and protect you from today?