Affirmation: Grace is an upward pull of the universe, lifting me to the heights of my divine nature.
Seeking the Meaning of Grace
St. Augustine said: “What is grace? I know until you ask me; when you ask me, I do not know.” If we asked a dozen people their definition of grace, we might uncover a dozen different answers including, “I don’t know.”
Perhaps we were raised in a faith tradition that taught we had to earn God’s grace by adhering to specific rules and engaging in sanctioned behaviors. Grace was almost like earning points with God; enough points could ultimately get you into heaven. You could also forfeit God’s grace by disregarding those rules or behaving in “sinful” ways.
I believe there is an entirely different meaning of grace.
The Quest by Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla explains: “The gift is yours from God simply because you are God's child. You didn't have to earn it, and you don't have to prove you deserve it. It is yours unconditionally. It comes with being part of creation. It is the gift of grace.”
Monk and mystic Thomas Merton wrote, “Grace is not a strange, magic substance which is subtly filtered into our souls to act as a kind of spiritual penicillin. Grace is unity, oneness within ourselves, oneness with God.”
In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the results of works.” And 2 Timothy 1:6 adds: “For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you.” We are already grace-filled. We only need to remember all that this implies in our daily lives.
I recently asked members of my congregation to share examples of ways in which grace had touched their lives so I could use their stories in my Sunday message. One woman wrote of receiving a cookbook from a new neighbor when she had just moved in and was feeling lost and alone. Another person described the enormous emotion he felt when a lost pet was unexpectedly returned to him. Still another reported that the answer to a serious dilemma came to her at just the right moment.
My only aunt died on September 17, 2004, at age 96. Her name was Grace, and I adored her. The Daily Word for that same day was Grace, and the words “I recognize grace as unconditional love,” were a source of grace for me as I grieved her loss.
Receiving a phone call or letter when we’re lonely is a gift of grace. So is the sweetness of a furry pet’s gentle nudge or finding just the right gift for a dear friend.
Swami Vivekananda, a Hindu monk living in the 19th century, put it this way: “God’s grace is always blowing, but you must raise your sail.” In other words, we must be open, receptive, and welcoming to the activity of grace within.
Expressing as Grace
Grace just is! We can also harness the energy of grace in service to others. We can make a phone call or write the note that brings a few moments of joy to a lonely person. We can grocery shop for a friend recovering from illness. We can listen when someone needs to express feelings of grief. We can buy a hamburger for a homeless man standing outside a fast food place. We may never know whether or not that one simple act of kindness will become a precious memory in someone’s life, but it could.
Victor Daley, the Australian poet, was being tenderly cared for in a Catholic hospital as he was dying. One of his last acts was to thank the nurses for all their kindness to him. “Don’t thank us,” the nurses said. “Thank the grace of God.” Very perceptively the poet asked, “But aren’t you the grace of God?”
I invite you to remember the many times in which your life has been deeply touched by grace, and also the myriad ways in which you have been grace in the life of another. May you continue to experience and to be the upward pull of the universe, lifting you to the heights of your divine nature.
This month you may want to consider:
- How you would clearly explain your understanding of grace to someone else
- Experiences of grace in your life
- Ways you have shown up as grace in the world—the upward pull of the universe, lifting you to the heights of your divine nature