I’d been in something of a funk this week. Sad about leaving, worried over the details of a trip to Taiwan, stressed about the move, I was no fun to be around. That was until the other night when I returned home to find Erin sitting the midst of several piles of photos and cards – the great memorabilia sort. There was a small “toss” pile full of old Christmas cards and envelopes. But, I noticed the “keep” pile was rather large and growing. I sat down and began to read through the stacks of letters and greetings, collected from over a decade and a half, and I felt the cloud beginning to lift. In that moment, as I poured over thoughtful words from friends and family, from Erin to me, and from me to her, the anxiety and sadness began to roll away. I can only describe that moment as grace – that beautiful in-breaking of peace amidst the storm, the fight that erupts into laughter, the grief that leads to healing – grace. In that moment, surrounded by years of loving thoughts and heartfelt words, I was touched by a piece of grace. It wasn’t huge or life shattering, but it was the little bit I needed to wrest a bad day out of the clutches of gloom and set it in its proper place.
It strikes me though, as I reflect on this little grace, how often I am unaware of the monumental wealth of grace that infuses my world undergirds my existence. One of U2’s lesser celebrated songs off of their “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” album, Grace, is a personal favorite of mine. The song affirms something Christians have long held, that grace “carries the world on her hip” – that the entire cosmos is undergirded, upheld, and held together by grace.
One of the reasons I am an Episcopalian is that we are a sacramental people. We understand the sacraments to not only be ‘outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace’ but, in the same way, they are a means of the same grace. To be a sacramental people, centered in the baptismal life and oriented in the world by Eucharist, means that we lean toward grace just as we were washed in it. By our weekly practice of the sacraments we assume a posture oriented toward and receptive of God’s holy and life-giving grace. Thus oriented we can better see the piece of grace that is a loving word from a spouse, a picture drawn by our child, the cup of water or hand of reconciliation extended in peace – our world is full of grace because the presence of God infuses all things and fills all things. And, as the song goes, because of grace…
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings…
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
I’d be curious to know, what are your stories of grace – simple or profound?