Maybe Grace Looks Like Chick-fil-a Sometimes

Maybe grace looks like Chick-fil-a fries sometimes.

I don’t mean to imply that Chick-fil-a is somehow holy, though I am sure plenty of people who love their Jesus chicken would debate me on that. But today, as I pulled out of the overcrowded drive through and drove home to heat up the two slowly defrosting frozen pizzas next to me, I realized that sometimes grace isn’t some big, grand gesture. Sometimes its greasy fast food on a bad day. Let me rewind.

5:30am. Yes, on a Saturday. The alarm started its strained imitation of a birdcall before the sun had fully made its way over the horizon. But, within fifteen minutes I was up, cup of coffee and journal in hand, getting the day started. By all accounts, it was a good start. I was up on time, I had two hours before I needed to start the day for real, and I felt as prepared as I could. Today was the last practice test I would have a chance to take before taking my LSAT next week. Ah, the dreaded law school admissions test. What was I thinking?

7:30am. I’m sure the banana was just the sort of breakfast I needed, but really, eating much before 10am never sits quite right with me anyway. I felt more confident during the test at least. Luckily for me, I tend to be a morning person, so the early hour didn’t bother me too much. What did bother me, far more that I would like to admit, was the score.


Technically, 164 is a pretty good score. I get it. And honestly, I’ve been pretty tired of defending why the score is frustrating to me. Sure, maybe my perfectionism is part of it. Sure, maybe I have a tendency to place way too much of my identity on being intelligent or on being good at things. But what really gets me about that score is the fact that this is the eighth practice test I’ve taken… and the score is worse than the first test I took. Three months of studying and my score drops a point. I did everything right, followed all the advice and internet wisdom I could fine and still it wasn’t enough.

So, the problem has to be me, right?

Like, what is so wrong with me that I can study for three months and seemingly learn nothing? Ridiculous.

So, I sat, and I ate my lunch – pity squash, I told myself. People whose scores drop don’t get reward lunches. It was only the beginning of the unkind things I would tell myself. I’m not good enough, so I deserve nothing was the constant theme. Never good enough. I work, and I study, and I try so hard to do everything just right, and it never seems to be enough. I felt like screaming. How is it that I manage to be so utterly awful?! My whole life I’ve been told I’m a good student, been told I’m smart, but what if those people were just lying? The biased and well intentions lies of parents and friends but lies, nonetheless.

I paced across the cemetery, one of my favorite places to think, in angry lines, half wishing I’d worn my running shoes. The sun was hot, but I didn’t care, I felt like I deserved the sunburn. On top of all the self-directed anger, I saw another conflict. I knew this shouldn’t be that big of a deal. I knew I should get some better self-talk, have some more compassion for myself, but I couldn’t. I knew I was supposed to give myself grace, not put so much stock in test scores. I didn’t want the test score to affect me whether it was a 164 or a 180 or a 120. But it was. Just another place I didn’t measure up.

Sometimes it seems like life is full of impossible standards. The type of daughter my mother wants me to be, everything for Her. The flawless employee my boss expects. The perfect LSAT score. The impeccably clean room. The matched outfits and paired journals. The perfectly organized and intelligent person I strive to be. It’s like trying to jump and touch the moon.

It took me about an hour to finally wear the anger down to exhaustion. How? How was any of this supposed to work? How was it that I got worse? How was I ever supposed to be good enough?

Because you’re not good enough, I told myself. And you never will be.

I hate that I believed it. But perhaps it felt so true because it did have a kernel of truth in it. If these standards are ends in themselves, then it never will be enough. I will never be enough. Perfection in one place will always lead to wanting it somewhere else. A perfect LSAT score leads to wanting a full ride to Yale leads to wanting the top job at whatever big name law firm. If you give a mouse a cookie… It will never be enough. It will eat me alive.

But the thing is, I can’t seem to save myself. I try and I try and I try, but I always seem to come back to this. I’m always trying to be better or smarter even when I tell myself that’s not what I’m doing. I’ve tried to stop, but I can’t. It’s always more. It’s never enough.

That’s not the end of the story, though. I’m not enough and I can’t save myself, but that doesn’t mean that someone else can’t. That’s the beautiful thing about knowing Jesus. Somehow, He sees me in all of my imperfection and failure and says, “You’re enough.” Not because I’ve done enough or have anything worth giving, but because He loves me and because He is good enough. It is simultaneously all about me and not about me at all. And no, I don’t deserve it; that’s part of what makes it so beautiful. If I deserved it, it wouldn’t be grace. If I deserved it, if I could be enough on my own, that I really would be screwed.

I can’t be enough on my own. I’m human. I’m limited by time and energy and memory and distractions. That, as hard as it is to believe, is good news. The pressure is off. I can’t be good enough. I’ll never outrun the engine of perfection, wanting more and more. Choosing to stop playing that game isn’t quitting or admitting defeat. It’s having the wisdom to not play a rigged game. Who wants to be the idiot standing at the claw machine empty handed after thirty tries? Not me.

I didn’t do as well as I wanted. But after I screamed at myself like a maniac in a cemetery for an hour, I realized that I had two choices: play the rigged game of trying to be enough on my own or accept grace. That simple. And that complicated. It seems like I can’t even manage to let go of the rigged game on my own. But I want to try – no, I don’t want to try. I think all my trying is part of the problem. Trying is all me. I need the strength to let go. It’s not my strength I need.

My score, my performance, didn’t deserve a reward. I hate pity and getting myself something because I felt bad about doing poorly felt like pity. I didn’t deserve it. You know what? I said, Screw it. I don’t deserve it! But isn’t that exactly what grace is? Getting what you don’t deserve? And you know what, those fries were good. And so is grace, even when the enemy tries to convince me it’s pity. Even when grace feels like quitting and giving up. I can’t do it on my own. It kills my pride to say that, but maybe it needs to be killed before it kills me. Before I try myself to death jumping from one almost good enough to the next.

I want to stop playing the rigged game. I want to just accept grace. But to do that is a bigger story than just one instance. If only I could just click accept and be done with it. But no. It’s going to be a daily battle to not go back to that rigged game, the dopamine hit of almost perfect. I’m going to have to try – no, there I go again already. Some days, I’ll fail. Some days, I won’t. But there’s grace for that, too. And it isn’t all on me. Remember, the pressure is off, because no matter how imperfect I am, no matter how little that stupid score improves, that isn’t who I am. I want to let Jesus define me instead of some stupid score. I want to believe Him when He says “You’re enough”. Right now, I’m not so sure I do.

But if fries from Chick-fil-a can be grace, then maybe, just maybe, I can learn to believe Him, too.

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