Grace /ɡrās/ noun 1.) free and unmerited favor
It’s a word known & familiar – grace. Regardless of one’s personal convictions, it’s highly likely that nearly every American & countless many abroad hear the words “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound” whenever the familiar melody begins to play.
We are deeply touched, even unsettled, whenever we recognize it has been given to us. At times, the role of “grace giver” can feel deeply satisfying. This lovely notion that has inspired artworks & anthems, namesakes worldwide & notoriety to iconic figures through history: A tiny nun pouring out a lifetime on giving orphans a home. A friendly cardigan-zipping neighbor elevating the dignity of a fellow human being above society’s dividing lines. A mighty king of old extending his scepter at the unbeckoned approach of an unlikely queen. A carpenter’s son finding greatest worth among the outcasts, the unclean, & the least of these. Hymns, homilies & hashtags waxing poetic since time in memoriam of grace in action, alongside traditions & fairytales giving glimpses of its worth.
We all need it.
We’d like to think we freely give it.
And I’ll bet my bottom dollar, in one form or another, we all crave it. Desperately.
At least, I know I do.
Sometimes I recognize grace given. Obvious signs of favor I neither deserve nor deny. Evidence of mercy’s bestowing opposite twin. Where mercy withholds deserved consequences without leverage, grace bestows favor without merit. I see its evidence & feel its weight, warm as a cloak wrapped ‘round the shivering shoulders of a vulnerable child. It floods my heart with gratitude & fills my sight with awe.
In times like these, my mind runs rampant. I’ll recall those hymns & homilies, declarations of grace amazing & sweet, their comfort felt sharp as a knife & bitter on my tongue.
But sometimes, often times, there are those times when all evidence hides in plain sight; the cloak’s warmth becomes absolute as a deathly hallow, obscuring all souls enveloped within from earnestly searching sight. Whispers wafting on the wind, teasing those things, no longer near, now far beyond desperate reach or straining site.
If I’m honest (can’t we all just be honest?), often I’ll quickly arrive at conclusions on my worth & the grace-giver’s intentions & all the reasons why this gift, by nature undeservable, has deliberately been withheld. Shaming determinations & damning rejections. I look for grace & find shadows instead. All things considered, I determine my skewed perspectives as accurate, informed, right.
It’s unnervingly easy to come to such conclusions. At least, I find it so. I look for grace like a river while sorrows like sea billows roll.
But maybe, just maybe, circumstances aren’t always as they first seem.
What if the shadows are not vacancies but evidence of a stronger light?
What if the pain is not a punishment but a provision to expose & spark rescue from a subversive deadly woe?
What if felt silence is not absence but rather the quiet nearness of a gentle embrace?
What if when we wrestle through the night, as Jacob did in times of old, what if the resulting limp IS the blessing?
What if hope is not in fact hollow but firmly rooted in a foundation eyes cannot currently see?
It’s a lesson lifelong for this girl named after what she must relearn over & again. A gift often wrapped in peculiar packaging.
Sometimes grace is a shelter & sometimes grace is the rain.
Sometimes grace is a placeholder, holding off the good as it secures space for something greater on its way.
Sometimes grace is a cradle & sometimes grace is a crucifixion.
May my eyes behold this gift of grace when wrapped wrapped in peculiar packaging, remembering always it bestows favor: unmerited, unrestricted, & free.