Clergy Reflection – January 26, 2018

Grace

“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us. It can be received gladly or grudgingly, in big gulps or tiny tastes, like a deer at the salt.”         Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

 

I am among the many who find Anne Lamott’s writings on many facets of spirituality to be remarkably down to earth and yet profound at the same time.

I was reading Traveling Mercies as I consumed a BLT sandwich lunch, and I ran across this provocative “definition” of grace. For me, it captures several aspects of what is meant by saying, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” as part of a prayer of blessing.

Grace is a mystery. It is of God in the deepest sense, and not of our own making. That should not be a surprise conceptually, but as we live our lives day by day, I think we can sometimes forget that the mystery of God’s grace is not something we can command and it is not something we earn. It is a gift, pure and simple, and it is a mystery at a deep level.

Grace meets us where we are. The late Dean of Episcopal Divinity School, Harvey Guthrie, often made the observation that it is “okay to be where one is at” in the spiritual journey when he preached to seminarians. God can and will find us wherever we are on the spiritual journey of life, and in the formative years of seminary, that message was especially important to me and my classmates. I recall long conversations about where we felt we were in our own journeys, and the ways in which God’s grace touched us in often most unlikely ways.

Grace does not leave us where it found us. Grace is not a “thing” we somehow receive and then just walk away. Grace leaves us in a different place than when it found us. Once received, we become engaged with God differently and it becomes impossible to continue on as if no encounter had occurred.

Grace is not always easy to receive. Grace is not always immediately obvious, and may require us to reflect upon the past in order to appreciate its work in our lives.

And at the same time, God’s grace is life-giving and life-enhancing beyond what we could hope for or imagine.

Thanks to Anne Lamott for a little gift of grace to feed the soul as I was feeding the body this day.

-Stephen