I’ve been thinking about grace & the nature of grace quite a bit lately. As a single word, it exists inside our culture without anyone really batting an eyelid when it is used. As a concept, it is far more deserving than the profile it currently enjoys.
Think about it: the famous song Amazing Grace could be sung and the words would largely roll out as if they were on some kind of auto pilot, scarcely troubling the singer with the depth of the lyric that they were communicating. We name our children Grace, we talk of being “graceful”, some people say grace before meals. The depth of that one alone would be enough to fill a few pages of reflection. Grace has many meanings. I grew up understanding that grace was “receiving favor that you don’t deserve”. You couldn’t earn it, you couldn’t posture yourself to receive it. All you could do was recognise its’ presence, and when you did this, what usually follows is genuine humility. You see, we all have our dark hidey holes. We all keep our secrets, we all have stuff that we hope and pray no-one ever finds out about. In spite of these realities, we each can measure what we call “blessing” in our lives. So why the juxtaposition of realities? I’m a rotter, but good stuff still happens.
A friend once said to me that they rejected the notion of people “getting what they deserved”. He argued that if that were the case then 1- grace couldn’t be real and 2- we would all be in a constant state of misery because of our dark sides. Whilst this offers up some obvious arguable parameters, I think it also shines a little light on what grace is and how it works, AND just how important it is. These past few weeks I found myself in the odd position of having to defend myself against quite a serious personal accusation. From my standpoint, I was never really concerned about the accusation itself because I knew that not even 1% of it was true. I turned up to the meeting in defensive mode, thinking through all of the possible reactions available to me. Gnawing away in the corners of my little brain was the thought that really needed to extend grace to this other person so that we could defuse this bomb, and she/he could leave with their integrity and self esteem intact. Grace; some would say this person didn’t deserve it and that I had every right to wade in boots & all. However, if I want to live in a world where grace, real grace is the flag bearer then I must also be a practitioner of it.
Let me finish by quoting one of my favourite writers; Canadian Jean Vanier who founded L’Arche, a network of inclusive communities for people with intellectual disabilities. In his book Community & Growth he says;
…community is not about perfect people. It is about people who are bonded to each other, each of whom is a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, love and hate. And community is the only earth in which each can grow without fear toward the liberation of the forces of love which are hidden in them.
(Read the whole article here) Not a bad thought for a Wednesday. I guess the bottom line is that the challenge for me is to extend the kind of grace that I would like to see extended to me, because as we know “there but for the grace of God go you or I”