Living with my illness has brought more clarity to certain areas of my life. It’s shown me that people who’ve stuck by me no matter what are the people that most deserve my loyalty (see this post). It’s taught me that some people cannot or will not stand with me when life becomes messy and uncertain. Some people take from us, and for whatever reason, they rarely give in return. I hope that I have learned to accept these truths with grace, but when I am honest with myself, I have to admit that the path to that acceptance has been full of tears and anger.
I cannot tell you that I’ve only been on the receiving end of abandonment because that would be unfair and untrue. About a year ago, S and I had some friends that went through a messy and difficult time. I didn’t know how to best respond to the situation, so I slowly walked away from our friends. I am ashamed of that decision. Now I know that there is not one “right way” to stand with someone during a terrible time. The important part is sitting with them in the unknown and showing up when life isn’t clear. I sometimes wish that life was black and white or that every problem only had one solution. As I’ve grown as a person, I’ve realized that a black and white life would indeed be easier, but it would be much less beautiful. There would be less opportunity for grace in a black and white world, and I need grace.
Yesterday I sat down with the friends I had walked away from and I apologized to them. I told them that I was wrong– because that’s the truth. My decision to fade out of their lives was a choice, and it was not a good one. Interacting with them during my illness has been a spiritual experience for me because they’ve shown up and loved me when other people left. Despite my hurtful choices, they showed grace and compassion to me. They know what it’s like to be abandoned, and they refused to abandon me and S. They chose to be present.
After I apologized, one of our friends looked at me and said “Now I don’t have to love you anyway, I can just love.” Those words have played over and over in my mind the last 24 hours. Grace is choosing to love anyway, despite pain or disagreement with someone. Choosing grace does not mean I agree with how someone handles every aspect of their lives, it means that I can love them anyway. It means that I am loved in my messy imperfection. Grace means that I love other people when they stray from black and white and walk into the grey areas of life. And when someone accepts the grace that is offered, they are able to walk into forgiveness and rebuild an authentic relationship. I am grateful today because I get to have an authentic relationship with people who have loved me in my messiness and who will stand by me in my brokenness.
Today, I encourage you to look at how you’ve given and received grace in your relationships.