“Grace has to be the loveliest word in the English language. It embodies almost every attractive quality we hope to find in others. Grace is a gift of the humble to the humiliated. Grace acknowledges the ugliness of wrongdoing by choosing to see beyond it. Grace accepts a person as someone worthy of kindness despite whatever grime or hard-shell casing keeps him/her separated from the rest of the world. Grace is a gift of tender mercy when it makes the least sense.” –Charles R. Swindoll
I remember the start of any school year and a teacher telling our class, “Today you all have an “A”. It is up to you to lose it.”
You didn’t earn the “A”, you may not even feel like you deserve the “A” but you have it and it is precious.
We are born. We didn’t deserve birth, we didn’t earn the right to be born, it wasn’t “our turn” but somehow we are here and we have an unknown amount of time to use what we have been given, life, to the best of our abilities. The grace of life is like the universe saying: “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t be the same without you.” –Frederick Buechner
We were given DNA passed down to us from eons of generations and yet there is one thing we are all given at birth that no one can take away; Grace.
“Life is grace. Sleep is forgiveness. The night absolves. Darkness wipes the slate clean, not spotless to be sure, but clean enough for another day’s chalking.” –Frederick Buechner, The Alphabet of Grace
I sometimes look forward to sleeping simply because I have a need to put this day to an end and to give myself time to restore hope for tomorrow. Every day I am given is like the universe saying, “Here is another day to make the most of you, for yourself as well as for others.” Every morning is like a rebirth into a life I was not deserving of. The awe of that thought is humbling.
To be sure, there will always be a need for grace and therefore also for gratitude. Gratitude and grace go hand in hand. Grace whispers breath into my soul and gratitude takes that breath and turns it into words and expressions and gifts to be given.
“Grace is a very strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, draws, changes, works all in man, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.” –Martin Luther
In his book, Grateful for Everything, author Skip Johnson writes, “When we diligently study, learn, and apply skills of being grateful for everything, our day-to-day experience shifts from trying to stay one step ahead of problems to consistently trusting and appreciating life and all the lessons that are presented to us.”
We were given life by grace and we maintain a graceful life through gratitude.
One of the hardest life experiences is to lose a loved one. That experience tests grace, gratitude humility, reverence and a host of other values. When my father passed away at the young age of 63 I was inundated with all of these feelings. He had been very, very sick with complications from diabetes among which took his essence from his family long before the disease took his body away and I remember the feeling of relief that washed over me and through me when my brother called to tell me he died. I remember the feeling of gratitude and grace that came over me in that moment. No more suffering. No more hardship in dealing with this disease. No more anger. No more fighting. No more tears. It cleared the way for me to remember him as my dad, the tall, sensitive, hardworking man that loved me like no one else could. Keeping his grace and gentleness inside of me, feeling grateful for having had him in my life at all, helps to insure his legacy will be strong and eternal.
It’s a given that we will stumble, fall, fail, make a mistake, err, slander and do wrong. We are human and we are at the mercy of our own evolutionary level of emotional intelligence. No two people are the same and no two souls grow and learn and evolve the same. What I may have learned at 15 may be something you are learning at 50. No worries in that because in our own time and at our own pace the lessons we need to learn will come and with it will be the emotional attachment that helps the lessons stick for good. That is grace.
I can remember many people who I have felt did me wrong in my life. I can also remember people who have shown me kindness and mercy and consideration simply because those character strengths were a part of who they wanted to be. At some point in our lives we all feel undeserving of kindness but the reality is we are all deserving of kindness especially at those low moments. That is grace.
When someone joyfully notices something about my character that I myself am in denial about that is grace; when a stranger can systematically list all the qualities about me that instantly attracted him/her to me that is grace; when a spouse can love you no matter what mood you are in, that is grace. It is a persons’ unique, inherent ability to see goodness that makes grace unattainable through deeds. We are all born with grace and it is how we hold onto it and use it and grow with it that makes grace something to behold in spirit.
Grace is unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness and unconditional rebirth. You do nothing to earn it and it yet renewal is its life force.
How can we honor the undeserving gift of Grace:
• Exist in a constant state of consideration and thoughtfulness. “You listen first with ears, then you wait and listen for what your heart feels, then you consider what they’ve said, then, you reply….” – John Geddes, A Familiar Rain
• Express decency and mercy whenever possible, to yourself as well as to others. “When you are lying in bed at night and regrets from the day come to steal your sleep….’I should have’, ‘If only I’, ‘I wish I,’….grab one of them and turn it into ‘I will’ and sleep peacefully knowing tomorrow will be a better day.” –L.R. Knost
• Act with grace in kindness, courtesy, gratitude and clemency. “Growing into your future with health and grace and beauty doesn’t have to take all your time. It rather requires a dedication to caring for yourself as if you were rare and precious, which you are, and regarding all life around you as equally so, which it is.” –Victoria Moran, Younger by the Day
• Offer reprieve to those in need. Be helpful. “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” –Charles Dickens
• Take grace on like a second skin. Let the evolution, spirit, charm and pleasantness of grace become part of your everyday character strengths.
“Poem by Howard A. Walter”
I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care;
I would be strong, for there are those who suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.
I would be friend of all, the foe, and the friendless;
I would be giving, and forget the gift;
I would be humble, for I know my weakness;
I would look up, and laugh, and love and lift.”
Call to Action
Where does grace live in you? Is it in your heart, your head, or maybe in your soul?
How can you express your unique grace to others today?
What does grace feel like for you?
Please share your stories. Your story could make all the difference in someone’s life.