Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thank Goodness for Grace

By Maggie Bartlett

Minutes before my husband proposed, I threw up. Apparently, I’m a cute thrower-upper. He planned to propose the night before, but around lunchtime that Friday, I started to feel queasy. We were supposed to get dinner and go to an art show. And get engaged. But I didn’t know that. I spent that afternoon asleep, in the bathroom.

When he came over that evening to pick me up, Travis found that I wasn’t exaggerating. I was sick. Understandably, he panicked. We canceled our fake plans and he drove me to my parents’ house for the night since my roommate was having a dinner party for her work friends and me throwing up in the bathroom between “Hello” and “Nice to meet you” wouldn’t have been good networking. I started to perk up before the drive, both of us thinking I might be better, his plans possibly restored. But then, as the car was moving, I opened the door and threw up all over the road. There was no chance of Travis putting a ring on it that night.

The next morning, I woke up to snow falling after a long night spent in the fetal position. I also woke up to a nice big zit on my forehead. I was feeling glam.

All day, my family and Travis peeked in “just to check on me.” They also thought it would be a good idea for me to take a walk because it would make me “feel better.” While I appreciated their care, concern and good ideas, I let them know that a woman who had spent the last 48 hours in the bathroom and popped a zit on her forehead that morning was not interested in taking a walk, especially in the snow. I eventually grew tired of my mom, my brother, my dad and my soon-to-be-fiancé sharing stories about how great walks were and how walks always made them feel better so I obliged. I put on my brother’s sweatpants (the only comfy pants I could find in the house), my mom’s snow boots and a big puffy jacket, and Travis and I headed out in the snow. I’ve never seen that man so excited to take a walk. We made it around the corner and I began to feel fatigued (and cold, because it was SNOWING) and asked if we could go home. He said no, which I found very rude and lacking in compassion.

“Just a little farther,” he insisted.

As we began to turn the corner into a nearby field, I stopped, leaned over and puked. When I finished, I whined, “Can we go home now?” Travis just shook his head and said, “Did you get it all out?” He was doing such an excellent job of ensuring I would say yes.

Moments later, we were standing under two snow-covered twinkling trees (he strung lights on them the morning before) and he handed me a card and a journal. I was overcome. He said nice things, while I pretended to comprehend what was happening. We both cried as he asked me to be his wife. We stayed there in the snow for a long time floating between laughter and tears. I couldn’t believe this man wanted to marry me, expressing his affection for me during the height of my beauty—vomiting, zits, greasy hair and all. It was the greatest compliment I have ever received.

Later, when we shared the story with friends and family, everyone joked that it was a classic Maggie and Travis story—imperfect, sweet, fun—such an appropriate way for us to get engaged. But it was one of my Young Life girls that brought a new perspective. Her text back to me went something like this: “Oh my gosh, MAGGIE!!!!! It’s the best story ever told!!!! Even though you were feeling ratchet and looking ratchet, he asked you to be his wife!! It’s like Jesus. He loves us even though we don’t deserve it, even when we’re covered in mud and blood and throw up, and Travis showed you that tonight!!!! I’m SO happy for you!!!”

How cool is that? I’ll never forget the story of our engagement, for so many reasons. Neither of us could have orchestrated that. Something so sweet and exciting also became a powerful reminder of the Lord’s love for me. When I’m feeling cranky, irritable and unlovable, bogged down by my sin and mess, I remember that story. 

I cannot fully grasp God’s unconditional love or grace, but he wove himself into that moment to give me a tangible reminder of his love. It releases me from the cage of my depravity, nudging me to offer myself some kindness and grace.

We all feel unlikable and obnoxious sometimes. We’re aware of our hurtmistakes and shortcomings. Sometimes we wonder why people would even love us or want to be around us. But then Jesus sneaks in distracting us from the lies, urging us to pause and remember how loved we are, asking us to look up from the muck and mire for just a second to rest in the extravagance and abundance of his love. Yes, we are sinners and yes, he loves us anyway. Thank goodness.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved." - Ephesians 24-5

Maggie Bartlett is a Colorado native, living in Denver with her husband. She works at a marketing agency and loves to write, climb mountains and travel in her free time.

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