Excuses vs. Reasons

Last week, Gram and I were chatting about people, and in particular our relationship to them as a whole. Both of us our introverts. I’m on a journey to overcome this limitation of mine, because I don’t want it to hold me back from connecting with people. Gram made some comment about how she wasn’t good with mingling because she was always on the piano or organ while the church congregation was interacting. She ended her musing with, “Well, as Grandpa would say, that’s an excuse, not a reason.”

Later, I revealed (and learned that this was not the way to go about news with Gram) that a couple women were planning on coming the next day to visit the new church member. Gram threw a fit all day and into the next morning. She tried to have Mom cancel, tried to escape, barely ate, and complained of stomach problems. (From now on, I know to keep details of future plans hush-hush until right before.)

As she was grouching, she went back to how she was no good with people because she was always on the piano. I grinned and said, “Gram, you know what you told me yesterday? ‘That’s an excuse, not a reason.'”

I got a reply along the lines of, “Oh, be quiet.” Then she complained about not getting any sympathy in our house.

The ladies came; my fifth grade Sunday School teacher, who is a hero of mine, and our church’s main piano lady. Had I been thinking, I may have made a bigger deal of that second fact to Gram.

Guess what? It turned out fine. Gram, with some prodding, did most of the talking. She received and promptly forgot about a little gift bag, sat quiet while my teacher prayed a rather convicting prayer about settling in and making an effort to be a part of our church, and when they were gone Gram mused about how simple it all was. And all day she received replies to the tune of “I told you so”.

And for a week, I’ve mulled over the phrase “That’s an excuse, not a reason”.

For lack of a better example springing to mind, a reason for not riding a roller coaster is a heart condition. An excuse is a mild fear of heights and no one to ride along.

I make excuses all the time. I did it at work even as I was telling myself to shut up and admit to my little mistakes. I ascribe blame to other people far too often, just to save myself some discomfort. I let my own insecurities and lack of experience hold me back from pushing myself and growing. And this year I’ve been making a conscious effort to stop doing that.

Nina is obsessed with personality quizzes and astrology signs. I don’t think she is really aware of the metaphysical side of such things. She just finds them interesting. And her reason for beating me soundly at battleship. “It’s your personality type. Liv’s the same way.”

I don’t put much stock in that kind of thing. I’m also a huge hater of labels. However, I can say with confidence that I am an INFP. But I no longer allow myself to think of that as an excuse for my discomfort in crowds or my struggle to initiate conversations. Now I’m starting to think of it as my own lifelong struggle, my personal giant that needs to be conquered and brought under control.

I can’t let my personality type hold me back from serving God. He calls us all to the same task. We each have our roles within His Body, but it’s all for the same goal and purpose, and I have to work just as hard as everyone else if we are going to get anything done.

Now, I do think we all have strengths. Like my father, I am a teacher. I like small audiences with whom I can get personal and to whom I can impart the truth I’ve learned. I like working with small groups of people on background projects and then stepping back and watching the collective admire our work. I find satisfaction in that.

My youth pastor has this pet idea that grates on my nerves. He refers to a verse in the Bible mentioning a measure of grace. Somehow or other, he takes it as such: to each of us God has given a certain measure of grace by which we can perform the tasks of our lives. To some, so says my youth pastor, that grace tends toward teaching, or working with one’s hands, or some such. He has turned this around to become an excuse for why he doesn’t do certain things: it’s not within the measure of grace which God has bestowed.

To use an old phrase, it’s hogwash.

I have a really hard time believing God would be so constricting toward us. I’m of the mind that we limit ourselves. To my thinking, we are capable of more than we can imagine. All that is holding us back from achieving that is our insecurities, our reasons and excuses. As they say, I am my own worst enemy. Yes, I have strengths that I should cultivate and apply in my life, but those strengths don’t define what or how much I can accomplish.

It’s a balancing act. Finding that middle ground between what we have to bring and all God would have us do is something of the struggle of life. It is both terrifying and exhilarating. And I pray I never let myself hold me back from doing everything in God’s power to make my life count for something.

I no longer care how many men see it. I just want to be able to look back and define what I did, to know I did something at all to the glory of God. He can take it from there and use it in ways I may never see.

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