What I have learned about grace over the years is that it is not something we can earn, and it is not anything we deserve. Grace is a gift of favor, and as a gift it can only be given to us, extended to us in love. We show grace to the young mother shepherding tired preschoolers when we urge her to go ahead of us in the check-out line at Fred Meyer. We receive grace when we are surprised out of our self-centeredness, and given a gift often wrapped in wonder, awe, or thankfulness. Listening to the frogs in the pond at night can be a gift of grace. Breathing the cold clean air after a week of hot weather is a gift of grace for me today. Listening to a young child make up words and sing loudly a song no one has ever heard before is a gift of grace.
Frederick Buechner, in his book Wishful Thinking, under the title “Grace,” writes these words…
“Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?”
And just when I thought I had wrapped up my understanding of grace with a nice neat bow, author Kathleen Norris’s words remind me of the amazing depth of God’s grace. She writes,
“If grace is so wonderful, why do we have such difficulty recognizing and accepting it? Maybe it's because grace is not gentle or made-to-order. It often comes disguised as loss, or failure, or unwelcome change.”
As I thought about her words, I realized that sometimes the best gifts of God’s grace I have ever received appeared to me in times that were filled with grief, or other forms of loss. I remember distinctly a long-distance airplane ride many years ago, where I found myself crying without knowing why. The time in the air gave me the time to question those tears and realize that the tears I had first labeled grief over the death of my grandmother, were really tears for another kind of loss. I had realized through my tears that I needed to leave a computer support position that was becoming more and more life-draining. Discovering that I needed a change of direction was a gift of God’s grace, disguised in tears unleashed by grief.
Grace is also a theological word, a word that describes how God acts toward us. God’s grace in our lives is the very essence of our salvation. Buechner also describes this well when he writes,
'The grace of God means something like: "Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you."
As we enjoy the beauty of these August days, I encourage you to take a moment to sit without distraction and to consider the word grace. How have you experienced God’s loving grace in your life?'
with prayers for you and for our church community,