In looking for a clearer understanding of a term I use often, I discovered something about how we come to define parts of our life experiences. Words hold such power, and we use them in our speech and writing to express many different ideas, opinions, observations, as well as our perspective and understanding of complex issues. Sometimes it helps to look more deeply into what a word means and how we use it. This process allows us to gain more depth and clarity about our use of language, and helps us speak, write, think, and behave with more congruence, directly from our heart.
The word I was studying is 'grace'. This word holds such a special place in my experience, for it is part of a prayer I have used since childhood. The line goes something like this, "give us grace for today; feed the famished affections." Grace, a gift, a special blessing, that flows into our lives or from us to others, when most needed and often when most unexpected. There is a long and complex history and debate about what grace actually is, but when I use this word, I mean that element of the Divine Spark that infuses us and fills us with Love. That quality and gift which we express and extend when we are able to act out a a place of love within ourselves and when we experience the light of love and grace shining into a troubling, challenging, or otherwise difficult experience, relationship, or situation. How often have we had someone shine the light of love into a situation with which we were struggling, to open space for us to receive relief, help, understanding, or some other form of love?
As I dug through the ancient arguments about what grace is, I found a peculiar duality in nearly every argument. The idea that any aspect of the Divine, the sacred could be separate and apart from us, seemed strange to me. The theological arguments take a back seat to my own understanding of what grace means to me. Grace is the ability to receive love in moments when we are least receptive. Grace is the ability to experience the light of love shining on an impossible task or challenging obstacle. Grace is our own ability to shine a little love on a situation that is awakening the worst in us. When we meet with a challenge over and over, we can be more receptive to grace when we ourselves turn a little love into attempting to understand that which stands before us as an obstacle or barrier. When we are troubled, grieved, hurting, or in danger, we need Grace to infuse our lives with Love in order to heal, find meaning and purpose, and to discover our own ability to reach out in love when we see a need in others.
Grace, regardless its source, is that unexpected sense that wells up within us and awakens the Love to share and shine on situations that we ourselves may be perplexed by. Grace, is that unexpected gift, surprise, relief, or answer that comes from the loving kindness of another or from an unexpected source beyond our own reach. Grace is the expressed act of Love.
May your Christmas, holy days, and life be full of grace, and may Love be the light that you shine on all troubling situations to open the door for grace to come into and flow out of your life. Blessed Noel.