I try to live my life by a standard of grace, not perfection. Many times, often, okay…almost daily I fail at this.
I believe that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God gives to ALL of God’s people grace upon grace upon grace. This is my operating theology and I will talk until I am blue in the face to get others to understand or believe this. It is so important to me that you understand that nothing, absolutely positively nothing, NOTHING (just in case I didn’t make it clear enough before) will ever or can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (see Romans 8:38-39 if you don’t believe me). And I will use my last dying breath to proclaim this good news to anyone who would listen, I, for some reason, struggle to believe it actually applies to me. I TOTALLY believe it applies to you. I feel like in the book of life I have an asterisk by my name or something. Now that you have a little background….
My most fantastic health care plan (insurance provider) increased their rates for the upcoming year. Although it may seem reasonable, an increase of 11% caused me a lot of stress. I spent the majority of this past Monday researching plans, finding comparison tables, carefully crafting my argument (in my head) as to why we should select the same plan, and almost drowning in general worry. I was preparing all of this information for presentation to my church council. On top of a raise in rates for insurance of 11%, our local synod has also suggested a 2.5% increase in base pay for clergy within our synod. Overall, this was going to be an increase of just over $2500 for pay and insurance combined.
You should know (if you didn’t already) that I am quickly coming up on my first year anniversary as a Pastor. My first year as an official rostered leader. This would also be my first time negotiating my own salary and my own benefits. By the time Monday night came around I had worked myself into a full-blown panic/anxiety attack complete with: hyperventilation, an ulcer flair up, a migraine, and ugly crying (if you don’t know what ugly crying is–just watch a Lifetime movie–they do a lot of that there).
Tuesday’s council meeting quickly approached and I was nervous. I didn’t eat dinner. 1) because I was nervous and 2) have you ever tried to eat with a cute toddler attached to your legs, arms, or other body parts? Eventually it became time for the discussion. I rationally explained all the numbers, suggested (more like requested) the plan we go with, and prepared myself. I was ready for all the discussion, all the objections, all the questions of plan A versus plan B. Bring it!
The discussion was minimal.
The explanations were non-existent.
There were no objections.
The council president said “I move we just go ahead and have Pastor continue with the same plan she had last year.” And it passed with no objections. And then I cried.
Like openly wept.
(I’m still tearing up thinking about it)
After I composed myself (I think there were some who weren’t quite for sure how to handle the crying Pastor)I said, “I was just so nervous about this conversation. I was prepared for this to not go well.” And without hesitation another council member said
“This conversation would be a lot different if we didn’t love you.”
In that moment,in that brief moment, I felt it. I felt what I so desperately try to get others to understand. God will provide. If you allow yourself to be loved, you will be surprised by the results. This conversation was about so much more than insurance, and salary, and numbers. It was about grace I wasn’t expecting.
How often do we expect God to send down God’s judgement on us and instead, we are surprised by grace and love?
How often are we even scared to approach God because we may think we already know God’s reaction and then we get surprised, even get off kilter, by grace?
My church council didn’t set out to show me grace. But, they did. I am so grateful they did.