What is grace? The word has been swirling in my head these days because it appears as if the world has lost its sense of grace. We are divided, spiteful, bitter, and full of venom. Has grace disappeared or is the glory of grace is that it always there, patiently waiting? As I delve deeper into the meaning of grace, I realize I have witnessed it in all its brilliant simplicity.
The word grace, used as a noun, has multiple manifestations. Grace can be elegance or beauty, an attractive quality, a favor, a pardon, or a delay in debt. The word is derived from middle English, middle French, and Latin meaning such things as kindness, mercy, and honor.
In Christianity, grace is believed to be given by God through Jesus. Those who accept Christ will receive salvation. Faith is confirmed through baptism, communion, and discipleship within the church.
In the Jewish religion according to the Talmud, God combined both mercy and justice, thus creating divine grace. Both mercy and justice counterbalance sin and man’s existence here on earth.
Muslims believe God is the only one who grants grace. Faith and good deeds do not guarantee Salvation, although both are encouraged; is only granted through God’s grace.
In Buddhism, grace comes from within. Looking inward is the only way to acquire grace, which is often referred to as spiritual awakening. Lama Surya Das, an author and Buddhist teacher, states, “Grace is the “isness’ of life. It’s the recognition that everything is connected and sacred. The more in touch we are with this natural abundance of life, the less we need.”
The writer Anne Lamott says,“I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
Pastor, writer, and public speaker Joseph Prince once said, “The law condemns the best of us; but grace saves the worst of us.”
Writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel stated this about grace: “For me, every hour is about grace. And I feel gratitude in my heart each time I can meet someone and look at his or her smile.”
I asked my friend Glenda, a yoga instructor, freelance writer, and seeker of truth to give her personal definition of grace. She wrote:
“Grace is invisible; it cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is more about a feeling, an experience rather than a tangible. It is extreme benevolence, a second chance (or 3rd or 4th) because the essence of grace does not keep track of how or when it arrives on the scene. But it's there, always, for the taking or the giving. It is an inherent quality bestowed upon all and the measure with which you apply or extend it is in direct proportion to your receipt and continuance of it.”
Where is grace in my life? It is when my sons call their grandmother to just catch up her, with no prompting from me. It is the gentle sound of my husband’s voice when he talks to his girls. It is the text I receive from an old friend, just to let me know she’s thinking about me. It is the courage of my friends out in Northern California, going about their daily lives, despite the fire destruction in their towns. It is opening a door for a stranger, a anonymous donation, a smile across a crowded room. It is showing up at a relative’s funeral.
Grace is acknowledging our stories. It is knowing we all come from different places in life. Our language, our neighborhood, our food, our customs, our beliefs may be not be familiar to others, yet grace is looking into one another’s eyes and catching a glimpse of a person, not a stereotype or a caricature. Grace is recognizing love, even when it is difficult and strange and unconventional.
Grace is accepting our privilege, our gifts, our abundances. To gratefully recognize all we possess, yet reaching out to give to others without expecting thanks or something in return. Grace is knowing all our stories have substance, even the downtrodden, the oppressed, the unlovable, and seeing each other for the magnificent creatures we are. This is grace.
As we gather next week for Thanksgiving, let us invite grace to the table. Let grace teach us forgiveness and joy and gratefulness. Allow grace to whisper, “All are loved.”