defining grace

Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There’s no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.

A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Somebody loving you is grace. Loving somebody is grace.    – Frederick Buechner

Grace enters my life quietly – gracefully. It comes on the smile of a friend and the warm embrace of my spouse. It arrives on my kitchen counter, in a basket of garden vegetables delivered by a neighbor. It comes as I watch my 2-week old granddaughter, stretching and yawning and trying to focus on this world she has just been given.

Buechner reminds me that I cannot acquire grace on my own. I cannot buy it, earn it, or demand it. Even when I’ve been my very best self, I cannot presume to deserve it.

There is, however, one volitional thing I can do with grace. I can give it. I can be the smile or give the hug or offer the gifts of friendship. I can be a neighbor. I can become the conduit of grace.

The mystery is that most often, in giving grace, I get it in return. When it is truly myself I give and not the duty-driven, obligatory gesture – it is then I find the grace of soul-to-soul relationship. That holy space of encounter is the birthplace of grace. And the birthplace of the me I truly want to be.

Even as a grandma, I feel newborn in the world of this mystery. I cannot always focus on its wonder, but somehow I know that I am held. And that is grace.

a new world

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