When Grace Looks Like Quitting

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When Grace Looks Like Quitting

I often speak on topics that include shame. One of my favorite definitions of shame comes from the Erasing Shame Podcast: “Shame is everything you can’t talk about.” And here I am. Sharing something I’d really prefer not to discuss.

I started something big. I told everyone about it. I was overjoyed and dove in. And then I quit.

This fall, I started a Masters of Arts and Practical Theology (MAPT). I love learning and I really love this seminary (and still do!). I took a first day of school photo of me laughing, I posted all the feels, I got to work. It was a new season. My children were all in school for the first time, so I was going back. I felt led to further my education and I was sure God gave the green light. 

But sometimes life gets fuller than you ever expected in every single direction. And it gets so full, so stretched, so tight, that it bursts. And so did I, into tears. Something HAD to give. And it was this wonderful program. 

I’m a 3 on the Enneagram (The Achiever) so pushing pause on getting my masters after beginning the program smells like failure and feels like shame. The “walk of shame” for me is calling it quits on a commitment. I hardly ever do it. And I have judged others for doing so. So when I had to call it quits? I wanted to hide and grace felt light years away.

But even as I use the word quit, it’s only part of the story. And often the part of the story that gets all the press. The public part. But we need to acknowledge the part of the story that comes before the quitting. This involves a private, internal wrestle. This involves a good Father. This part is called surrender.

Before I made the call to drop my classes, I felt God point to them. Almost like how God pointed to Isaac when talking to Abraham. 

As if the internal question He posed was: Can you trust me enough to give me this? Can you trust me in a change of plans? Can you trust me with what others will think of you?

And now all of a sudden we have a story of surrender, not a story of shame. A story where trust and faith are major players and letting go is just one of the chapters. A story that is still being written. 

So here’s what I know about quitting, about overwhelm, about a compassionate community of people who douse shame with empathy, and about grace from God as you change course:

  1. Living a full life doesn’t mean you have to live in overwhelm. Grace says you are loved even if you just sit there and produce nothing. God doesn’t want you to live overwhelmed; He wants you to live loved.

  2. Figuring out what you won’t give up is necessary. Start there. Giving up being a present wife and mom was not an option. Listing out what I would not give up made space for what I needed to give up.

  3. Editing means freeing up space. Space means health. Health means breathing deeply. It means lightening up. It means freedom.

  4. God has called us to shalom: whole lives, peaceful lives, integrated lives. He didn’t call us to live to the edge of the page, all disintegrated and divided. His grace says we can offload our burdens to Him and He’ll trade us for a much lighter load.

  5. Shame survives when silence, secrecy, and judgement keep it alive. But when I shared my overwhelm, my questions, and my tears about quitting—I was met with compassion and empathy by my husband and friends. Shame couldn’t survive. Each response smelled like Jesus. 

  6. Speaking of Jesus, He was always stepping in and bringing empathy, grace, love, and compassion. He flipped the script constantly. Where I want to condemn myself, He doesn’t. So if I thought I heard Him, I moved forward in faith. And I still moved forward in faith to change directions.

Brené Brown is right. Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our stories about needing to edit our lives. About pushing pause. About quitting.

There is grace for the quitter, and it might look amazing on you.

So friend, may you wrestle with God and surrender what He points to in your life.
May you still commit to the very best of your ability.
May you find yourself met with empathy. 
May you receive and reflect the grace for your edits.

Amy’s new book “Grace Looks Amazing on You” comes out April 7. It is available for pre-order wherever books are sold.

Amy Seiffert