Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Monday, April 26, 2010

Grace redux

I have been thinking a lot about grace.  Grace is challenging for me, because grace is not about me.  Grace is about God, and who God does, for me, in me, through me.  I'll be honest.  I have trouble getting past myself.  I am way to self focused.  I don't like that about myself.  But its true, my self focus surfaces in so many ways.  It surfaces when I worry about whether MY sermons will touch anyone.  When it become a workaholic because I seem to think that if I don't keep working hard the universe (or at least my organization, or my church) will grind to a halt.  My self focus comes out in so many destructive ways. It comes out when I get so busy, because after all I have so many important things to do, that I don't focus on, attend to, my staff.  It comes out when all those ideas in my head just MUST come out.  How can I deprive the world of my genius?  It comes out even when I am being insecure, and assume I must somehow prove myself to those around me.
Being focused on the self is not just found on that end of the spectrum we call arrogance.  It is also found on that end of the spectrum we call humility.  Its all about me being great, or its all about me being pathetic.  Either way its all about me.  Kind of an interesting paradox.
But to continue.  When we are focused on ourselves, either because we think we can do no wrong, or think we can do no right - when we are worried about how we perform, how we are received - we are not in the realm of grace. 
Grace is about letting go of all that stuff.  It is to both accept the totality of who we are, the light side and the dark side, and to realize that the totality of who we are, good and bad is ultimately NOT what it is all about.  It is about God - and God's love.  A love that is, as Chesterton once put it, "furious".  
Grace is amazing.  Paul Tillich in his book The Shaking of the Foundations talks about grace this way.  "Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness.  It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. . . It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decardes. . . sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkenss and it is as thought a voice were saying: 'You are accepted. . . ' "
Ah, if only I could take my eyes off myself long enough to honestly look to God and God's grace.  There are moments, of course when grace breaks through.  But all too often my focus returns to myself, and I miss the experience of grace.  I confuse my perception of myself for reality.  I am neither as good or bad as I think.  I just am, and the real me is accepted by God, just as I am.
But until I can grab hold of faith.  Really grab hold of it.  I will appear arrogant to some, humble to others.  I will struggle for longed for perfection, and fight old compulsions.  I will be hard to love.  And I will be unable to really focus on others.  I will talk too much, and listen too little.
And so I struggle, a bundle of paradoxes... hoping that some day, some day, grace will abound. 


  1. Grace abounds, but it's not about perfection, it's about wonder. It's your ability to feel it, as you have said, that is the issue. I keep thinking of something my daughter once said when she was very little and a box came for me in the mail and I did not open it. "Mom, you have to open people's gifts." If grace is a reward for anything, it's for letting go and, as some say, letting God.

  2. I agree, you put it beautifully. It is about God's love. Or as someone put it, "accepting God's acceptance of you."