“The growth of grace is like the polishing of metals. There is first an opaque surface; by and by you see a spark darting out, then a strong light; ’till at length it sends back a perfect image of the sun that shines upon it.” Edward Payson (1783-1827)
“We’re all stumbling towards the light with varying degrees of grace at any given moment.” Bo Lozoff
“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.” Anne Lamott
If you choose to you can see grace in everything. Surely, it was grace that let you take a breath when the grief was so intense you thought your body would implode. It was grace that, after a night of tears, let you see the beauty of red leaves falling to the ground; and, it was grace that brought a smile to your lips when you saw a young couple holding hands.
The Hasidic Jews practice saying a Hebrew phrase: Baruch Hashem, which roughly translates to “Thank God,” whenever anything happens. So, let’s say you made a huge pot of soup and it’s been simmering all day. You carefully pick it up, but trip on something and it spills its entire contents on the floor. Why say Baruch Hashem? Because you’re assuming everything happens for the best; it’s all from God and divine. On a purely pragmatic level, falling at that very second may have prevented something worse from happening.
There’s a fairly well-known story about a man who led a righteous life. Without reason, his horse escaped, and fled into barbarian territory. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said : “What makes you think this is not a good thing?”
Several months later, his horse returned, accompanied by a superb stallion. Everyone congratulated him. But the old man said: “What makes you think this cannot be a bad thing?”
The family was richer from a good horse, and his son enjoyed riding it. One day, while riding, he fell and broke his hip. Everyone pitied him, but the old man said: “What makes you think this is not a good thing?”
A year later, a large party of barbarians entered the border. All the able-bodied men drew their bows and went to battle. Nine out of ten died. But because he was lame the man’s son did not have to fight and was spared.
What do we know? Why not assume the best? It’s the nature of life to have balance: yin and yang, light and shadow. All things contain seeds of their opposite. If you ever had a baby, you know (consciously or unconsciously) that from the second your child is born they move towards increasing independence, and away from you. Their self-sufficiency is actually your ultimate goal.
Everything is bittersweet. The greatest joy ends and the deepest sadness heals. Perhaps, this ebb and flow from one type of experience to another, is what keeps us so entranced with life. We’re on an intermittent reinforcement schedule, and there’s no way to predict what’s next.
Nature’s most intense expressions: tsunamis, earthquakes, avalanches all end with peace resumed. Yes, there has been a major upheaval and plenty of damage; but, just like the naturally occurring forest fires, it paves the way for an explosion of new growth. There’s grace in that transformation, just as there’s grace in each of us. It may be harder to find because of our habitual preference for stability and familiarity, but it’s there.
The entire cycle, from birth to death, is grace incarnate. Not every minute is joyous, but even suffering can be sweet in its ending, setting the stage for greater delight.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang