A few days ago, my wife and I were out for a brisk walk on our favorite trail. Buck Creek runs through a park near our home, and the city put in a walking path along its route a few years ago. The trail is delightful. Lindsey and I needed the fresh air as much as we needed the exercise.
As we were nearing the end of our three-mile jaunt, I spotted a sign for an extension of the path that goes out to a favorite fishing hole. We hadn't been out to that spot in a long while, and my Mom was enjoying her time with our children, so off we went.
The sky was cloudy, and the wind was brisk; my favorite kind of weather. We paused for a while to appreciate just how green the limestone tints the water. On our way out, I spotted the most unusual, beautiful vine I've ever seen. Thorns, an inch or more in length, covered the entirety of the sturdy creeping plant.
What mesmerized me were the buds and blossoms on that very same vine. The blooms looked like dogwood blossoms, but this was just a vine. I've seen wild roses, but this wasn't a bush. It was a thorny vine, and the thorns had blooms. I couldn't stop staring.
Like the dewberry vine, my life has been riddled with thorns. These days, Grace continues to remind me of my loveliness. Standing on the trail last week, the cold wind at my back, tears welled up in my eyes. I held my wife close, closed my eyes, and whispered, "thank you for the blooms." I've been there. I remember what it's like to reach the end of the rope. People in power and those who seem to have never screwed up have discounted me. I know what it's like to be labeled the underdog, but God says I am welcome. I am loved. I am Beloved.
I changed the tagline on my website this week. Did you notice? For the longest time, it's read, "Steve Austin: Author, Speaker, Coach." Not only is that lame, but it's also what I do, not who I am. Since I have combined my two websites, I wanted something that speaks to the messiness of grace, while also talking about who I am and what this community we're cultivating is all about
I asked members of the Messy Grace Tribe for their feedback. There were 45 responses. The top five most common reactions were:
Authority on self-care.
Lifeline for outcasts/broken
I will save their feedback forever. Anytime I'm having a hard day or listening to the lies of shame and guilt, I'm going to pull up this document and remind myself that I am more than past mistakes. I'm more than just a thorny vine. People who know me well, see my worth, and love me as I am. It's essential to have a Tribe that reminds you of your loveliness.
I don't share this with you to brag about how much my friends love me, but because I know what it's like to feel worthless and wonder why the hell I choose to keep living. Until I started the recovery process five years ago, there were countless times that I considered driving my truck into the overpass. There were days I drank, not for enjoyment, but to desperately try to numb the pain and anxiety. I know what it's like to write suicide notes. I can tell you what hopeless looks like.
I haven't forgotten my failures, but mindfulness, gratitude, and grace have allowed my life to blossom in ways I never would have imagined. I have much to be thankful for, especially the three people I share a home and last name with. I'm not silly enough to think there won't be more thorny patches along my path, but I trust that there will be blossoms, too.