Oatmeal, Spirituality & Unexpected Grace

I made oatmeal for myself for breakfast this morning. Or, perhaps phrased more accurately, I attempted to make oatmeal for breakfast this morning. I don’t make it very often, usually because it takes a while to cook, and mostly because it makes a giant mess in the microwave when it’s heating up.

I conveniently forgot about the mess making part, though, and tried anyway. Same result. After five minutes in the microwave, and a giant pile of a thick, beige sludge-like substance staring back at me from the white bowl I poured it into, I decided to give up and had a bagel instead.

What I realized, though, while rinsing out the mess-covered bowl in the sink, is that that oatmeal bowl pretty much described how I have been living my life this past week- messy, all over the place, and not really amounting to much of anything.

Hi, I’m Nick, and I’m a husband, father, bi-vocational pastor, seminarian, and child of God. To say that time is money to me is an understatement.

When people ask me how I manage it all, I usually just jokingly say “coffee” (which isn’t an entirely false statement), but in reality, the truth is simply “grace.”

Let me explain.

I’ve had to learn to be okay with being interrupted what seems like fifty thousand times a day by my two daughters (who are darn cute, but after a while, “Daddy, I need something,” does start to get old).

I’ve had to learn to be okay with doing homework early, or late, or whenever I have a free moment, regardless of what time it is.

I’ve had to learn to be okay with turning in assignments late. As a perfectionist, this was a tough lesson to learn. But, more than once, either due to poor planning on my part, or to life happening, I have had to do it. Was I happy about it? No. But, life went on.

I’ve had to learn to be okay with recognizing my limits and saying “I’m turning this in as is, because I don’t have the ability to put more time, or effort, or energy into it.”

I’ve had to learn to be okay with not getting anything done on days where my wife is having a bad day and needs to be able to have time to herself because of her bipolar disorder.

I’ve had to learn how to have more patience with my children in general, and even more with my 5 yr old daughter who has Autism, who can sometimes be a handful.

But perhaps most importantly, I’ve had to learn that caring for myself is not a selfish task, but rather a necessary one, not only as a follower of Jesus, but also as a husband, father, pastor, etc.

And yet, this past week, it’s the one thing I neglected the most. And when I say “self-care” I’m referring more to “soul-care,” in terms of connecting with God, through prayer, devotional reading, etc. I could sit here and make excuses, saying that “I didn’t have enough time,” or “I was too busy,” but that wouldn’t be the truth.

The truth is simply this: when given the choice, over the course of this past week, I chose poorly. I chose to goof off on Twitter or Facebook early in the morning before work instead of praying or reading. I chose to let myself get “busy” or focus too much on other things. In other words, I lacked discipline.

And so, today, on one of my few days off from my retail job, it was easy for me to get up and choose poorly again (once you make a decision like that, the next time, it gets that much easier).

When I was finally able to sit down and dig into my reading for this week, I struggled. My heart wasn’t in it. I was faced with the question of “do I skim over it, and try to do enough to get the assignment done,” or “do I really dig in and take the time to understand what I’m reading, for the benefit of my own soul?”
I chose the latter. But, like I said earlier, sometimes I have to recognize my own limits.

What I’ve always found fascinating, though, is no matter how many times I screw up, or make a mistake, grace is always right around the corner. Grace has a way of finding me and seeking me out, usually in a place I don’t expect to find it.

I was reading my way through Deuteronomy 4 for one of my Mentored Ministry classes (what my internship classes are called), when I came across verse 9:

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the        things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.”

Guess what one of my biggest struggles is in my own life? I forget things.
Especially spiritual things.

So this one hit me square between the eyes. I’ve let myself forget the goodness & love of God in my life, and let it slip out of my heart, as well.

Perhaps the greatest gift of grace, however, is the gift of time. No matter what happens, it keeps going on.

And no matter how many times I failed this week, there’s always tomorrow.


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