Michelle DeRusha, Misfit
I met Michelle DeRusha in 2010, on a spring day before I ran my first half-marathon on the streets of her city. She and Deidra Riggs stopped at my hotel for our first in-person meeting. And I’ve counted them as dear friends ever since. Even before we met, I was captivated by Michelle’s honesty, humor and writing.
Four years later, Michelle and I are walking side-by-side on this publishing journey, both of us having released our debut books in the past month.
Today, you’ll find a hilarious excerpt from Michelle’s book — one of the finest faith memoirs I’ve ever read.
(Be sure to enter below for a chance to win Michelle’s book!)
What Cheez-Its can Teach You About Grace
By Michelle DeRusha
Of all the theological concepts I learned about on my journey to faith, grace was the one that gave me the most trouble. I simply didn’t get it; I couldn’t comprehend it. I didn’t hear much about grace in my childhood church. In fact, for most of my life, I thought grace was the few words we uttered once a year over our turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Suffice to say, coming to understand the notion of grace was a two-steps-forward-one-step back process for me.
The following story is one of my favorites in Spiritual Misfit. It’s about the day I tried really hard to be “just like Jesus.” Here’s what happened:Joining a small group, getting more comfortable with prayer, and digging into the Bible with greater frequency were all practices that moved me along the faith continuum, but I was still stumped by a theological concept mentioned again and again in church and the Bible: grace.
I remember the Sunday my church launched a sermon and study series called CrossWalk. The initiative was designed to help us integrate worship into your everyday lives. I thought it sounded like a great spiritual growth opportunity. And it was…on paper. In reality, it nearly killed me.
Day one of the plan suggested we praise God throughout the course of our day. The first few hours were a snap, but the trouble was, the day was long. Not counting slumber, we’re talking sixteen hours or so. And who could praise God for sixteen hours straight?
By the time 7 p.m. rolled around, my nerves were frayed like an old hair elastic, and I’d resorted to Darth Vader deep-breathing. While I barked orders – “Finish your snack! Pick out a book!” – and tried to rein in the spiraling chaos, the kids got giddy as kids do when bedtime looms, wheeling around the living room like bumble bees on speed, ricocheting off furniture, bouncing on the couch like rubber superballs and throwing Cheez-Its at each other.
Before I realized what was happening, I morphed from a thinly disguised insane woman trying desperately to act like Jesus into a stark raving madwoman; Jesus cast aside like a rumpled Halloween costume, as Medusa with a head full of writhing snakes slid into his place.
In the span of thirty seconds, I grabbed a handful of Cheez-Its, crunched them in my fist, and threw them at Rowan, orange crumbs cascading like sprinkles off his carrot-top head. (Note: this is actually an effective strategy for summoning shocked silence and a total cessation of pre-bedtime lunacy, but I advise to use it sparingly). I rattled off a list of lost privileges rivaling a day at Guantanamo Bay – “No books! No snacks! No story! No snuggling! No prayers! (Yes, I took away prayers.) Then I dropped each boy howling and sniveling into his respective bed. And I burst into tears myself.
Yes, this was how I launched CrossWalk. This was how I integrated worship into my everyday life. This was how I glorified God with my thoughts and actions. It went really well.
Oh, and I should mention, it was also my husband’s birthday. Happy birthday, honey, from your raving lunatic Medusa wife.
I’m guessing Jesus probably would not have hurled snacks at his disciples, no matter how exasperated he was with their constant vying for position and their proclivity for sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also probably would not have forbidden prayer as a disciplinary measure.
While I wept on Brad’s shoulder, complaining pitifully that my CrossWalk was a bust, he assured me with compassion and genuine affection that I could try again: “Honey, it’s okay, really. You can start again tomorrow; you did really well during the first part of the day, didn’t you? It’s not a complete loss.” (Of course he managed to be like Jesus with no problem).
I did pick up one pointer from my abysmal one-day CrossWalk experiment. I learned to take a mulligan, as they say in golf. I don’t play golf, but Brad does, and he’s explained the concept of a mulligan to me, which is essentially this: a do-over. If your drive goes awry and your ball plunks into the pond, you can take a mulligan.
Grace, it turned out, was like a mulligan, the chance to take another shot, to start over again. I had received a mulligan, grace, from God (and my husband and children) when I morphed into Medusa and threw Cheez-Its at Rowan. I received the chance to start over the next day and the day after that.
A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at MichelleDeRusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star and The High Calling. She’s mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, was recently released by Convergent.
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