On Need and Grace

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We fly today. In a way it feels natural. Normal. Like putting on familiar, soft clothes, we will go through security and onto the plane and out into Cape Town. Maybe even a little like home. And there’s this other feeling that’s so familiar. It jitters and aches a little and I know it. Need.

I am needy.

We left Mozambique six months ago today. And today after a long, deep breath of rest, we board a plane again. And I remember, how I birthed need – again and again – in the dirt and strain of Mozambique. I need you became my morning song, my afternoon song, my night song. And then we left, six months ago. And then we boarded a plane from South Africa to London.  My oldest slept in a pile of pink blankets on the floor, and I hushed my littlest in my arms, swinging her back and forth in the carrier, hush hush hush, hush hush hush. Just before midnight she gave up and slept, a heavy weight in my arms. I didn’t become strong as we flew across borders on that overnight flight, as we descended into that city of bright lights and predictable train times. I needed grace as I boarded, and grace as we got off. I needed grace in Mozambique. And in this land we’ve spent months in, this land I grew up in, so familiar, with steaming cups of Earl Grey and meadows and grey sky, here I also needed grace.

Grace – this word means a myriad of things to me. Partly, to me, it is a beautiful word for help. I look back on these months, and I see – just like in Mozambique, on the hot, languid afternoons with no electricity and nowhere to go – I’ve needed grace here. Just like there.

I’ve needed grace in the morning. I didn’t wake up in a dirty bed, with bamboo prodding my back and itchy bites on my neck, but I still needed grace. I needed it to live fully alive and in love. I didn’t want to fall asleep in my heart. I didn’t want to forget. I needed grace so much, I couldn’t slip into the comforting rhythms of selfishness and sleepiness, eyes glazed over supermarket shelves and in front of screens. In the midst of music and noise and adverts and shops and screens, I needed an altar, I needed this: Jesus, keep me awake and in love.

I’ve needed grace to find Him. I needed grace when I sacrificed time to meet Him. I set aside space, I gave, I pushed, I pressed. I needed grace then to sustain me, as I walked deeper in Him. And then I became grumpy and anxious and uptight and I realised I needed grace in a different way. I needed Grace to come and kiss my forehead, stroke my hair and loosen my need to prove myself. I needed to tiptoe in the holiness of the garden and watch the peonies open in the sun and just relax.I needed to give myself a break from all the running for Him, and dance with Him instead.
I’ve needed grace to love my children. The wisdom to know how to shower them with abundance and still remember that dirt and laughter is all we ever needed anyway. I’ve needed grace as we place our family planning into His hands again, never knowing from one month to the next if life might take a radical turn in the form of a wrinkled newborn frame. I need grace if it does and grace if it doesn’t. I need grace if we have another because God knows mothering is tiring, and I need grace if we don’t, because my heart longs for another life to hold soon.

I’ve needed grace to swim upstream. Upstream against criticism, upstream against well-meaning questions, upstream against dullness at the door of our hearts. Upstream against every piece of parenting advice that says pursue predictability and self-care so you can parent well, as we say no, uproot all we know again and pursue a life given, believing children watch and learn. Upstream against my own fears, my own sleep-walking towards comfort, my own doubts. Such strength is needed to swim upstream. And then every so often we look around at these budding little girls under my feet, and the pure exhilaration of a life full of Him, and the peace we feel deep inside, and we have found a still lake to float in. No swimming required. And I look at those muscles we grew, and they are so strong.

I need grace as we pack our bags again. We turned up at the visa office. We waited in line, our girls watching Peppa Pig under our feet and I prayed if it’s a no, Jesus, let me find You quickly. Grace if it’s yes, grace if it’s no. We alwaysneed Him. We were handed a pile of papers, and little precious stickers were stuck in our passports. And we left, smiling like we couldn’t believe it, and we ate pizza and messaged our family and we laughed. And now we need a new sort of grace. Grace to say goodbye, grace to leave loved ones, grace to live like nomads, grace to parent well, grace to be courageous, grace to follow His still and tender voice. Grace to learn a language, to walk streets we don’t know, to learn a culture, to be wise, to be courageous, to stand up, to sit down, to burn, to listen. How, oh how, are we supposed to make this transition gracefully? By grace.
I look back, this one clear thread of dependanceis busyweaving its way through our lives. We are always so dependant. I look around at ourfew possessions going in bags – Johnson’s baby soap, wooden blocks – and I try to work it out. Has God made it that way, or do we keep choosing to make ourselves needy? I think perhaps He chose it long ago, and up until todayHe keeps marking out a way that makes us needy. But somewhere along the path, we chose it too. I tasted it. Itasted what it was like to be in need, and though it was uncomfortable and sometimes scary, sometimes sad – I fell radically in love with Grace. Grace, who is always drawn to need.
The thief in agony, the woman with the issue of blood, the weeping prostitute, the lonely rich man, the dying girl. Israel, covered in blood, a newborn in a field crying out, without swaddling clothes. He is so drawn to us all, He can’t keep away. He’s compelledand He says “Live!” That is grace.
We board a plane today, back across the sea and the continent of Africa. I’m needy, dependent, a child. I love it this way, because I get Him. He loves it this way because He gets me. And then – it’s stunning, it really is – all this unabashed, wild happiness gets thrown in, almost like an opulent afterthought.

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1 Comment
  • Laura
    July 27, 2015

    Thank you – please keep writing

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