Lately I find myself absorbed with, and simultaneously struggling with, the idea of grace. I’ve adopted as my personal mantra “Grace in small things, grace in all things,” and while it’s easy to type those words, easy to repeat them to myself, making them a part of my every day life is more difficult.
Growing up in the church, we were taught that grace is a divine gift, something we receive. Now that I’m older, I have come to believe that grace is something that, once received, you must radiate out. If we are the recipient of divine grace, and grace from others, and then go out into the world and send out negativity and malice, the grace inside us dies.
When people talk about someone’s grace, it’s more than just the way they walk or talk or dress, it’s about what doesn’t show at first glance. It’s about kindness, forgiveness, gentleness. It’s about consciously choosing a healing word over a hurting word. It’s about understanding what you bring to our collective state of being, and offering it up with a smile and an open heart, instead of jamming it in everyone’s face with a raucous demand that they pay attention to you.
The concept of grace is one I embrace wholly, yet sometimes I feel it wriggling out of my grasp. Perhaps I am holding it too tightly. I wrestle with thoughts and feelings that I know are only human, but that I also find contrary to the simple idea, not to mention the practice, of grace. Pettiness, jealousy, anger, competitiveness… they are all feelings that everyone, no matter how well-balanced, has experienced at some point. And far from finding them unattractive emotions, too much of our society tends to celebrate them. But for me, and I believe for many others, those emotions are not only damaging and spiritually stunting, they keep me from fully experiencing grace.
I’ve long been a proponent of what I call “just being.” Living fully in the moment, not letting my mind be carried away with self-recrimination about yesterday or obsessive worry about tomorrow. That’s the fastest way to lose the moment you’re in, and you’ll never get it back. I’ve begun to realize there is a whisper-thin line that connects grace with just being. When I find myself feeling angry or jealous, for example, I step back and let go of the emotion, then bring my thoughts back to the now, sometimes to a simple thing – a drop of water on my skin, the smell of coffee, a note in a song. Even pain – a paper cut or a stitch in my side – brings with it a beautiful reminder than I am alive, that this moment is an absolute gift. And when I relax into that thought, into a conscious state of simply being… that’s when I experience grace. Whole grace, true grace that softens my edges and washes over me with blessings and love.