Hoping for Grace

October 3, 2017

Awful things happened this week. Awful things happen every week and most we (for various values of “we”) don’t know about.

But I go back to Obama’s elegy for those killed in Charleston:

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.

For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation. (Applause.) Sporadically, our eyes are open: When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart. That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

That reservoir of goodness. If we can find that grace, anything is possible. (Applause.) If we can tap that grace, everything can change. (Applause.)

Amazing grace. Amazing grace.

Of course, Zoe’s song keeps it in my mind:

Obama said,

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God — (applause) — as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. Grace.

This is a pretty general notice of grace in religious traditions. I don’t believe in God, so grace cannot be a favor of any god or divinity. But I do use a variant of the concept, though a bit more related to “graceful”. Grace is a way of being and acting that has a rightness that’s only partly aesthetic. When we act with grace we bring together the beautiful and the sublime such that it feels like a gift…effortless and beyond effort.

Grace is something we can give each other, but it’s not built brick by brick (though it might emerge from small efforts).

I keep looking for it in all things.

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