I think I’ve mentioned it before, but Emily and I signed up for Disciple Bible study back in the fall. I remember that first week, as we debated between going to Disciple class or another option, Emily looked at me and said, “I’ve heard that Disciple classes are pretty intense… Are you sure you’re okay with this?” I nodded, and in we went with no idea what we were getting ourselves into.
As someone who grew up in the Catholic church, I’ve always considered myself to be fairly well versed in scripture. After all, the Lectionary is set up so that you read the entire Bible every three years (assuming you go to Mass every Sunday). I’ll be honest, though, this class has really made me look at everything in a very different way. And, in many ways, it’s made me question a lot of the beliefs I’ve held onto about Christianity and, even more so, myself.
This week, we discussed the Epistle to the Romans. Although I definitely had many thoughts and questions about the book as a whole, I really went down a rabbit hole in my mind when someone in class brought up the topic of grace. It’s a subject that, honestly, I’ve always struggled with, largely because much of modern Christian teachings specifically condemn multiple aspects of my identity as undeserving of God’s grace. And yet, as I drove home tonight and fought back tears, I could hear Emily’s voice clear as day, telling me to stop being so mean to myself… just like she did nearly every single day from 2018 to 2022.
She Showed Me Grace
Emily was one of the most kindhearted, giving people I’ve ever met. In fact, I often think of her when people ask for a definition or example of terms like abounding grace or altruism. She shared her gifts, her presence, and her love with others without hesitation and, oftentimes, without any consideration as to how it might affect her.
It always surprised me when I’d do something that I considered inconsiderate or harsh, and she’d still be there, ready to forgive me and accept me still. And, as I often told her, I didn’t understand how she did it because I felt so undeserving.
The Puppy Debate
There was that ridiculous puppy, Nova, that she fostered for a few days then decided to adopt. She was not only living in an apartment that didn’t allow pets, but she was working two jobs and enrolled in grad school. I watched this puppy for her a couple times, and I spent several nights talking to her on the phone or texting her as she struggled to deal with the dog because it was so young, untrained, and quite the handful.
Finally, I told her, “Emily, just take the damn dog back to the humane society and tell them that you just don’t have the time or space to deal with a puppy right now. It’s not that big of a deal.” She asked if I’d take the dog back for her, and I said, “No. I’ll drive you there, I’ll stand by you the whole time, but I will not do it for you. You are the one who adopted the dog, so you need to be the one to take it back. You’re an adult, and sometimes that means you have to do hard things.”
I know I was harsh. I know I made her cry. And, honestly, I spent the entire rest of that day feeling guilty about it and worrying if she was going to stop being my friend because of it. But, the next day, she reached out and thanked me for what I said and told me she didn’t think any less of me because of it. She never once yelled at me, told me I was a bad friend, or treated my any differently after that. (Oh, and she did take the dog back, too.)
Jealousy Over The Ex
Emily and I started dating about two weeks after she broke up with her ex. We didn’t plan it, and I definitely didn’t see it coming, but I definitely found myself floating on air that entire first week after that night at Hooters.
Then, on Friday night, she started texting me. She’d agreed to hang out with her ex and some mutual connections that evening. However, when she went to pick him up (he doesn’t drive), he had an entire suitcase with him because he decided they needed a “romantic weekend together.” And, because Emily hates confrontation even more than I do (and that’s saying something), she didn’t say no.
She was texting me to try to figure out what to do, but my emotions were all over the place. I stopped replying to her texts because I knew I was going to say something I’d regret, but then she started blowing up my phone because she interpreted my sudden silence as anger. I tried my best to explain to her that I was feeling jealous, hurt, and confused, but I wasn’t doing it well.
At one point, I told her I felt stupid for thinking that she’d actually be into me, and I’d rather her be honest than pretend to be into me. Of course, she responded by telling me that she definitely wanted to date me, but she was afraid of confrontation (which I already knew) and she didn’t want to hurt Julian’s feelings or give him a reason to lash out at her.
The entire time, she kept telling me that my feelings about the situation were valid and the last thing she wanted to do was hurt me. Looking back, I definitely didn’t handle the situation in a mature way, but she was still willing to love me anyway. And, ultimately, she did start setting some harsher boundaries with the ex — it just took a lot of time and effort.
Her Grace Knew No Limits
Obviously, those are very specific examples of me and Emily. However, I watched her show grace to countless other people, too.
She had this friend that, honestly, said some really harsh things to Emily at times. I remember multiple conversations with Emily crying over the things this friend had said about how Emily was “getting fat” and how she “wasn’t a good friend” because she was trying to get the friend to make recovery oriented decisions. And yet, it didn’t matter what Emily had going on in her life, anytime that friend needed help, Emily would drop everything and go. We once even had to turn our date night into sharing a fast food burger and fries outside the emergency room because the friend called her when she was on her way to meet me and needed medical attention.
The same ex I mentioned before? We once picked him up at 11:00pm and took him to the ER as well because his blood sugar was all sorts of out of whack and he called Emily because he didn’t have anyone else. After everything he had done to her (I’m eventually going to talk more about that), she looked at me that night and said, “I know he is a huge jerk, but he needs help and we can help him. Doesn’t everyone deserve that?”
Trying to Find My Emily-Like Grace
As I told people in my Disciple class tonight, I really feel like my job at this point is continuing Emily’s legacy. She never said that, but I feel like she made the world a better place, and I still want that for everyone.
But, like I said tonight: How do you show others grace when you yourself don’t feel deserving? And, even more so, are we supposed to offer abounding grace if we’re truly leaning into our call to be Christ-like?
I am going to talk to Emily about these things this weekend. And, even if I don’t get an answer, I know she’ll at least be willing to listen because she’s always been willing to do anything for me.