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July 18, 2019

A Manifesto for Finding Grace in our most Challenging Relationships.

Grace has been one of my favorite words for as long as I can remember.

I have danced with its teachings and meanings my whole life, but until recently, I never fully embodied it, let alone accurately defined it. 

Two years ago, after an epic falling out with my own father, I had the above spinner-ring made with the word “Grace” hand-etched on its interior.

This ring has been lost and found and misplaced and replaced and too loose and too tight. It has circled my thumb throughout two of the most difficult years of my life. I have anxiously spun its two gold orbits through court depositions, counseling sessions, moving, building a business, raising two daughters, and failing at relationships.

Last week, on a humid afternoon, nestled in the corner of local coffee shop patio, my father and I reconnected after a two-year hiatus from each other’s lives. My spinner-ring, which had been missing, reappeared that morning. As the sun shone through my bedroom window, its gold bands glistened beneath my bed frame, the inside-etching noticeably more prominent after its two weeks of being M.I.A.

The Cliff’s Notes version is that my relationship with my father has run the spectrum of human experiences—beautiful and volatile, soul-quenching and depleting, effortless and advanced calculus-level challenging. Walking through this world as his daughter has been my most potent teacher and molded me into the woman I am today. It has humbled us both and versed us on grace. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve asked several unsuspecting people what the word grace meant to them. Oddly, but not surprisingly, almost everyone stumbled over their words in attempts to articulately define its power. 

The one thing we all agreed on was that grace is easy to spot, difficult to define, and even more challenging to embody. 

I was able to fully live this word last week. And it changed me.

And for the first time ever, I was able to put into words what the mysterious five letters currently pressing against my skin stand for:

Grace cannot be sought. It finds us.

It’s easy to recognize, yet difficult to define. 

It shape-shifts on its descent into our consciousness, disguising itself by first wrapping us in soul-crushing agony and intolerable grief.

It starts off as an illusive promise, a seed, a deeper knowing etched in our bones—tip-toeing toward us, knowing we are stubbornly two leaps ahead.

We are aware of its looming presence, yet it feels unattainable to embody when we’re helpless and behind bars—with the keys nowhere in sight.

It’s bigger than us. And as it reaches through the thick, steel bars of our reality, we push back, convincing ourselves we must surrender our backbone, logic, and pride if it breaks though our walls. After all, white flags indicative of defeat are not in our character. 

But then it happens—with its gentle invitation to soften our fists, it lovingly holds our clenched jaw and tear-stained cheeks between its hands and turns our eyes inward.

It holds us there, steadies our gaze, and teaches us to sit with our pain. Our anger. Our past. Our regrets. Our feelings of lack and loss and betrayal and fear and all the heartache we quietly numb behind our smile and tenacity and closed doors.

Often times, it’s too much. So we dance with our demons while our angst comes out sideways—bitter, thrashing, reckless, and hellbent on proving our sorrow valid.

We attempt to fly high with concrete shoes and a lump in our throat, only to crash into our own ego again and again.

But if we are brave enough, we lean in, lie on the bed of nails, and turn the tattered pages of our storybook, one by one. We see and hear and feel the generations of pain and loss and regret within humanity’s timeline and our own—forcefully imprinting itself on our present experiences, relationships, and self-worth.

We see our blind spots and our triggers and our list of limiting beliefs begging to be acknowledged and accepted and healed.

And we listen. We soften. We acknowledge grace and invite it closer with childlike curiosity. We allow it to settle on our skin, remove our armor, and agree to stop using other humans as a scratching post for our own feelings of discomfort.

Grace holds us close and we thank it for its patience and perseverance as we chisel away our karmic blocks. 

We exhale, open our eyes, turn our focus away from the internal labyrinth, and reexamine our present-day shackles.

We look down and see the key was in our hand the whole time.

And we see grace, illuminating our path forward, finally internalizing it is not just an adjective used to describe a noun or a word synonymous with prayer.

Grace is a verb.

It’s seeing the divinity within another human being while simultaneously finding gratitude for the lessons they taught you and the person you evolved into because of them.

The giving of something, to someone, that wasn’t given to us.

The purest form of love and the easiest test of our alignment within ourselves.

The wiser big sister of forgiveness.

The headlights for humanity.

The flower in the gun.

The balm for the wound.

The key to our own cage.

The priceless gift we are able to give others once we lovingly gift it to ourselves first.

Grace cannot be sought after. It finds us.


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Rachel Dehler  |  Contribution: 8,625

author: Rachel Dehler

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

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