Grace -- got it? Gotta have it!
I realized that this word may be misused by "Christians" who want to identify those who are so-called saved vs. those who aren't. My friend Michele sounded suspicious today when she asked me to clarify what I meant by the word grace. She is a homeschooler who is not doing so for religious reasons. When she goes to homeschooling co-ops, the assumption around here is that everyone is a devout, church-going Christian. She wanted to wear a T-shirt saying something like "Pagan Homeschooler" to put everyone on notice not to make that assumption!
Interestingly, she comes from a deep rootedness and background in Christianity. She attended seminary, along with her husband. But she cannot embrace any church right now.
Even without wearing a pagan T-shirt, she was recently found out by a preacher's wife, who casually asked where she was going to church. The wife then spent a couple of hours "evangelizing" to her. To the effect: I'm saved, and you're not! Don't you feel terrible about that? You need to profess your faith in Jesus to save your eternal soul! (These aren't the specific words used, but the sentiment.) Gee whiz, makes me want to go sign up to join the loons so I can go into the world and judge others too!
It's amazing how Good News gets perverted into "Good News for me, Bad News for you!" by so many so-called Christians out there.
So, my concept of grace ... It's the connection that people have to something higher than themselves, the awareness of their deep interdependence on other life here on earth, and their responsibility to that life. It's the knowledge that we are not alone; that our lives have purpose; and that we are here to accomplish good and improve the world. This connection to a higher power enables people to overcome great adversity, not through each one's own strength but by connecting to that larger source of energy that runs through each person, but belongs to none.
I'm trying to use the broadest language here to include people of many religious backgrounds and faiths, or people who do not share the language of a particular religion.
Many people have not accepted grace, a gift freely given, but one that must be earnestly desired and sought out, and recognized as even being possible. Not all people will let themselves off the hook enough to accept grace. It takes effort to accept grace and all its radical implications. It requires letting go of some part of egocentrism and past mistakes, and a willingness to become a new creation. Sorta continuous self-improvement. Making oneself a new wineskin, to accept the new wine of Christ's teachings. Or Buddha's, or some other higher power's!!
Many people are suffering, and many people are causing suffering for themselves and others. I do believe that accepting grace is a way to transform that suffering -- to end what is unproductive, and to use what is productive to achieve positive changes. Somehow, it doesn't seem like suffering when there is a purpose. It becomes something like childbirth. There is still labor, and it can hurt (a whole lot). But there is a goal in mind, and it is glorious and more than worth the temporary discomfort.
I, personally, have been transformed through grace. I have been able to release many burdens to God and really let go of things that would otherwise cause me long-lasting anger, resentment, frustration, etc. God, I thank you so much that you show me a better path, a higher way to live that allows me to leave behind concerns that are not important.
I see grace most in my relationships with others. How I can personally dislike someone, but yet realize that I am called to love them, and act on that knowledge!
How I can let go of my clinging to my children, for the most part, and understand that this teenage time will pass. Every day will hold endless new revelations, but our bond is strong and, I believe, everlasting. Nothing -- not angels, not demons, not principalities, .... -- will separate my children from my love! This echoes the Bible verse that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus. There they are, my darlings! (Back in the spring. I asked them to pose for a lovely picture with the bluebonnets, and they did.)
Maybe most importantly ... Grace allows me to shine my light before the world with less fear, and more understanding of who I am, and whose I am. Hopefully, I encourage others to do the same.
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