This year I did something I promised myself I wouldn’t do my senior year.  I went through the entire first semester resisting the temptation and just when I felt I was on the home stretch, approaching victory, I gave in.  I lost the battle.

I wore sweatpants to class.  

As I am walking to class in my stretchy, comfortable, pants-of-goodness I am seriously annoyed with myself.  It felt as if I had been defeated once again at a time where I really just needed a win.  I needed to feel like something was matching my expectations.  Truthfully, I needed to feel in control.

I tried justifying it 100 different ways: “I didn’t sleep well the night before.  It was Friday.  They’re black so it could be considered a “formal” pair of sweats.  I just did laundry and didn’t want to use a pair of clean jeans…etc.”  Clearly at 8 am my creative juices were flowing and as I am walking to class, stewing over my first decision of the day, God quietly whispers…

“Ashley why are you obsessing over something that doesn’t matter to me?  Why are you holding yourself to an expectation that I never set for you?”

Speechless.  I didn’t have an answer.

For the most part we, as people, are driven by goals, achievements, tasks, etc.  We are motivated by what is ahead and the different accomplishments that interest us.  Traveling certain places, owning certain things, becoming independent, building our bank accounts, our families, our resume.  

There are times on the way toward our goal we experience setbacks.  We make decisions that keep us from reaching the goal.  We wake up and don’t have the energy or the drive to wear anything other than sweatpants.  And sometimes in the midst of those decisions we realize that the goal we are working towards, might not be worth working towards at all.  That God might not care what I wear to class. 

Sweatpants Friday may be his favorite day of the week.

This week at youth group I had each student write down a “God-sized” dream that they’ve had at some point or another.  There were dreams such as “Cure Cancer”, “Travel to Africa”, “Eliminate HIV/AIDS”, “Start an ATV Church”, “No more corruption”.  Dreams that give me chills when I think about them.  These are the goals that should motivate us; goals that contribute towards God’s desire for restoration and redemption in the world.  These might be the things that resonate with God’s heartbeat. 

I don’t want to get to the end of a season or the end of my life discovering that I accomplished a bunch of things that don’t matter.  When I was younger and my sister and I would fight or complain about something, my mom used to ask, “In the realm of all eternity, is this going to matter?” (which usually sent us into shameful apologies and make-up hugs)  At 22 years of age I am asking myself the same question, but to answer this we have to take our focus off of ourselves and look to God’s bigger plan for the world.  A broader perspective helps in determining value.

So in the midst of sweatpants, God-sized dreams, and running the race of life, I am discovering the beauty of grace.  Grace from God.  Grace from others.   Grace towards ourselves.  I don’t want to walk defeated by expectations that no one, but myself, is holding me to.  

“I do not understand the mystery of grace…only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”

- Anne Lamott

Ashley Sider