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Inhale. Exhale. Release.

When I saw the car service pull up out the window, I knew it was really over. I was being let go from the job I had poured my heart into the last five and a half years—my first “real job” after college. I couldn’t tell whether the ensuing 50 minute ride back to the city seemingly took forever or no time at all. The landmarks I knew so well grew blurry as tears of embarrassment and shame filled my eyes. My mind instinctively tried to explain it away: it was no longer the job I initially accepted, the company had changed and it was only a matter of time, etc. These may have been true but deep down I also knew I hadn’t performed.    

In addition to losing my job at that time, the relationship I was in ended and I left the church I had helped plant. In a few short months, my life went from overflowing to feeling astoundingly empty. I felt so insignificant that I would avoid interacting with others, even in small ways. Although I did update my resume and send it out, I didn’t really want to work. I was spiritually exhausted.

As the Chicago weather warmed, running quickly became the single thing I looked forward to each day. Rather than wear headphones I treated it as a chance to pray, listen and reflect. Inhale. Exhale. One step, then another. Many of the questions, requests or thoughts that I brought to God remained the same throughout that season but what changed was my moment by moment connection to God’s presence with me. I don’t believe I became more broken over those months but I certainly became more aware of my brokenness and dependence on God’s grace.

About six months later, I got a call from a local pastor who had been given my name as someone who might be available to serve as a worship leader for their congregation. That call was the start of a new season of renewal and encouragement where I was cared for and reminded that God had not forgotten me. There were many new challenges in the transition from business to full time ministry (and many more which were specific to the situation) and if I hadn’t just been through a season of reckoning with my own sin and need for grace, I honestly don’t think I would have been prepared. Inhale. Exhale. The awareness of grace that was cultivated during hundreds of hours running around the west side of Chicago became a well from which I drew time and time again.

As I look back on that experience, I learned that if we want to extend the grace of God to others, we first have to understand the grace that’s been shown to us. When Jesus gave the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), he wasn’t merely challenging the Jewish expert in the law to show mercy to his enemies. After all, it was the Samaritan and not the Jewish man who showed mercy in the story. Instead it was as if Jesus was saying, “You were in need of mercy and God rescued you.” If we want to do work that builds the Kingdom, we must first understand the depth of our own brokenness and the unfathomable grace that has saved us. Inhale. Exhale.

During this time of sheltering in place, each of us has an opportunity amidst the isolation. Technology allows us to remain connected to our church, community and loved ones to a certain extent, but most of us will inevitably experience different daily rhythms. Instead of  binging on your streaming platform of choice, find an activity that allows you to pray and listen. Ask God to reveal His grace in a new way so that your sensitivity to others might increase. Inhale, exhale, release.