I’m about to drop a truth bomb on y’all. Up until what feels like this moment, I’ve been lying to you guys. I’ve been pretending that I have mastered the perfect balance of dedication and grace. Not true.
To be fair, I haven’t been intentionally lying. I guess I thought I was practicing those things, but over the last few months, I realized that that’s exactly the opposite of what I’ve been doing. As many of you have watched over the last few years, I’ve been pretty dedicated to my health and fitness journey. I’ve talked about staying committed to reaching your goals while enjoying the things in life that you love. On social media, you watch me sweat it out daily and learn to love broccoli, while also chasing down burgers and froyo all over the globe. You’ve also heard me talk about becoming less strict and living more while still maintaining the desire to live healthy. I’ve heard myself talk about it too.
But I haven’t felt it. I’ve heard other people say it over and over again. I’ve believed in it for all of you. I’ve wanted to believe it for myself. But I never did. For years, I’ve been holding myself to a standard of perfection. Instead of trying to be my best, I’ve been chasing down the best. Instead of practicing grace, I’ve been practicing negative self-talk. It’s all been very unintentional, and for the most part, I didn’t even realize it was happening. But one day it hit me; I could never eat clean enough to allow myself to enjoy those Friday night treats. No matter how close I was sticking to the program, it was never quite close enough. I would force myself to justify why I deserved to slack off. Instead of celebrating the 6 other workouts I’d done that week, I’ve been focusing on the one that got missed or that I didn’t give my best efforts to. The only thing I had done was change how I was displaying my lack of self-love. It went from physical to mental.
And yesterday morning, while I was making a waffle from the continental breakfast – you know the kind – a wave of grace washed over me like it never had before. I’ve eaten tons of waffles. I’ve “cheated” on my meal plan tons of times. I’ve skipped lots of workouts. But for the first time since I started this journey, I allowed myself to empathize with the girl eating that waffle. And that’s when I realized that grace is earned. Wait what? That doesn’t sound right. You’re right; it doesn’t. But that doesn’t stop it from being true for most of us.
Jesus died so that we can all live in a state of grace; that’s free and unconditional. But very few of us actually have grace. Because we don’t accept it. We don’t allow ourselves to live that way. We keep chasing a permission slip that allows us to finally accept this gift that we’ve already been given. We keep telling ourselves that it has to be earned. And ultimately, in this world, it does. Unfortunately, the ones handing out those permission slips are often the toughest to impress; us.
Why is it so difficult to live in a world of progress over perfection? It’s easy to eat like shit and hate yourself, it’s hard to eat like shit and love yourself. That’s why people fail on this journey – not because they make poor choices, we all do. It’s because of the self talk that comes with those poor choices. In order to really change your lifestyle, you have to change your mindset. That’s the one that most of us can’t master, and to be honest it’s easier not to try. It’s easier to give up on that journey than to work through it. The healthy eating, weight loss, and abs are all just a byproduct of that mindset shift. When we allow ourselves to be loved in spit of the fact that we’re not perfect, everything changes.
And in those quiet moments when you’re feeling like you just can’t understand why life has to be so tough, it’s hard to see that there’s no such thing as being perfect. Perfection went right out the window the day that Eve ate that Apple. And maybe one of the first steps in overcoming this problem is admitting to yourself that you would have eaten that Apple too. As someone who has been practicing grace for five whole minutes, I think that the secret to earning it might be giving it. When we can look at each other as people who need grace, we can see ourselves that way too. We get to be a part of the lump of people who aren’t perfect.
But if we’re constantly judging others, we’re not only isolating them from receiving grace and compassion from us, we’re preventing ourselves from it too. When we decide to judge someone, it’s because we either think were nothing like them, or we think we’re exactly like them. We either can never put ourselves in their shoes, or we look down and realize we’re wearing the same shoes. So we judge; judge because we don’t want to believe that could ever be us. Judge because we don’t want to remember the times that was us. Judge because we believe that if we just take our foot off the gas or loosen the reigns a bit, that will be us. We judge and we hurt and we create a laundry list in our heads of all the things that we hate, that we think are stupid, that we can’t believe she did.
And guess what we’re left with? A list of things that at some point we’ll all do. And that same judgement comes back on us. We’ve been creating this list our entire lives, so we can’t do anything with grace because we’ve been judging for it and ridiculing it.
I’ve judged so many people for eating waffles. Not just waffles – but for not being the picture of health. “How can she eat like that, doesn’t she care about her body at all?” I’ve thought it dozens of times. But suddenly, I imagined people saying that about me as I listened to the buzzer from the waffle maker go off. I wanted to turn around and tell them that tomorrow I would do better, but today; this waffle was doing my best. I wanted to explain that I had been up for 24 hours, that I had been living out of a suitcase for a week, that I was trying to save money for our big move, that this trip was unplanned, that I normally pack something healthier, that I’m starting a new fitness program that was sure to get me back on track, that I had a meeting in 20 minutes, and so many other things so they knew more about me, other than the fact that I was the girl not taking care of my body today. But when I turned around to start explaining, I realized there was no one there.
It’s me. It’s always been me. It’s always been you too, friend. When Jesus died to offer us grace, He also left us with a huge responsibility: to accept it. You can. I can. We all can. And today, I will. Because I know that girl in the waffle line, and she’s so much more than she gets credit for.