The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

autumn background with colored leaves on wooden board

Sometimes, there are days when having it all together is clearly not a phrase that describes me. Actually, lots of days. When there are places to be, a husband and children to love on, work to be done, chores, more chores, and an Irish temperament to go with it, all sorts of things can go wrong, and wrong in so many ways.

When days like those come along, I really have to make a choice. Do I beat myself up for every single thing that I didn’t do perfectly, every choice I made that turned out wrong, wallow in regret for words I’ve spoken in a pressure-packed moment, drown in guilt over a parenting choice I made, or do I make a decision to remind myself that we’re all learning, here. I’m pretty sure I know which I would have chosen not so long ago.

It’s the struggle that we all face; talking with my girlfriends, it’s often the same story. Something goes wrong, maybe one or two things…and maybe we decide that we’ve made too many mistakes, are a complete failure in that area, and just haven’t got it all together like we should, so we tell ourselves we’re not doing enough… No, we’re not good enough. And maybe we shrink back because we believe we don’t have what it takes.


To be a parent. A friend. A partner.

Our work isn’t good enough, our bodies aren’t good enough, our homes aren’t beautiful enough, we’re not giving enough… you get the picture.

There was a time when every single day I was reminded of how ‘not good enough’ I was. In my desperation to be good enough,  I got busy becoming ‘better’… on the outside. Pleasing those who could never be satisfied. And underneath my ‘got it togetherness’ mask those thoughts weighed me down, directed my focus to being perfect; to having the cleanest house, most gourmet meals, most well-groomed child… and all this designed to go along with my perfect fake smile. Ticking all the boxes. Everything was perfect. On the outside. Because that’s how ‘good enough’ was measured. Was the outside in order? Good. That’s all that counted. Never mind what hot mess is behind the perfect expression. It was exhausting.

If I could go back, I would tell my young self that sometimes, we take our measure of ‘good enough’ from people who hold us up to a malfunctioning, impossibly long yardstick. That grace is what’s at the heart of every great relationship. And what follows then, is that sometimes when we supposedly do something wrong, it isn’t – and people aren’t – actually supposed to condemn us for life.

I found out that ‘good enough’ depends on how it’s measured. If it’s measured by the standards of the society we live in, then none of us are ever really good enough; because you can’t attain the unattainable (insert perfect life here). If we measure it by comparisons to people who have different abilities and talents to ourselves, then it’s a false measurement. If we measure it by the careless, casual remarks made to us in High school, then we’ll never feel good enough again. If we measure it by that person who treated us with utter disregard or disrespect then of course, we are not good enough – to them. And then if we measure it by how we see others around us, like those friends for whom everything seems to come easy compared to how hard we’ve worked to make things happen, that just haven’t happened, then we’ll be forever holding ourselves to standard that most likely doesn’t even exist, asking ourselves the question “What’s wrong with me?” – A question that gets me so fired up when people ask it.

Because nothing, nothing is wrong with you.

I learned the hard way that it really matters where we get our measure of ‘good enough’ from. But where is that, exactly? Where do you get it from?  Is it from your parents, siblings, work friends, social circle or postcode? Social media maybe? And if that’s the case, how hard do you have to work at it to feel like you measure up? And how exhausted are you from trying?

Jesus says,  “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

live freely and lightly. Yes please.  Unforced rhythms of grace…um, could there be anything more appealing?

I found this beautiful thread of gold woven into the scripture in John 4 recently that has really stayed with me. It’s when Jesus is talking with the ‘woman at the well’, a woman with a scandalous past. A woman, according to custom, he shouldn’t have even been speaking with. But in it, he says “That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship.”

… simply and honestly themselves. No performance. No KPIs, no competition. Just being who you are. Living freely and lightly, learning the unforced rhythms of grace.

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Shakespeare said “All the word’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” which I think sadly, resonates truth and implies deception; pretense. But I believe that if we measure ourselves from the right place, our ‘performance’ can be beautifully authentic, without masking true individuality… covered in grace. I think Jesus probably longs for the day  that we are comfortable enough to step into our own skin, and just be ourselves. Hey, you do your best work there, anyway.

So, for the days when we’re tempted to declare ourselves ‘not good enough’ for whatever we’ve set our hands to,  the choice to beat ourselves up or recognize that we don’t have to always have it all together, is ours to make. To remember that Jesus promised to lift off our burdens, teach us the unforced rhythms of grace (Not judgement). To make a choice not to keep ourselves busy trying to be perfect according to non-existent standards, but learning daily that we can instead, exist in the ebb and flow of what we were designed to be, and who we were designed to do it for, being led by something greater than popular opinion – our hearts that lean on His grace. Excuse me while I go work on that.

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