“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Maybe we’ve said this phrase. Maybe we’ve heard this phrase as we pass by someone. I really don’t like the phrase.
“There” is a word of spatial separation. Toddlers learn the difference between “here” and “there”, just as they distinguish “up” from “down”. Here is where I am and there is where I am not. In the spirituality of connection, in the field of oneness, is separation a reality or an illusion our minds make up? Floods and fires and natural disasters happen there, until suddenly it happens here and our perspective changes. Honestly, we like the comfort of the distance there creates. We create separation from things unfamiliar because we fear the experience or condition. Fear drives us apart.
“but for the grace of God” implies an inequitable distribution of grace by the infinitely giving Divine. How could a field of love parcel out grace to some and withhold it from others? I puzzle over how these decisions could be made, even in the limited human understanding speaking the words. If you live with a disability and hear these words spoken by others as we move through life, you have to wonder why grace would be denied you and heaped upon the able-bodied person. What event triggered this distribution decision? Was I bad or was the other person good? What is the measure in this duality? Don’t we all receive grace?
Let’s go to a more basic question: What is grace? Or more specifically, what is God’s grace? It seems Merriam-Webster feels bold enough to venture into the religious waters of definition on this one saying grace is: “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification; a virtue coming from God or a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine assistance” (from online dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grace). The very beginning of the definition blows the merit theory out of the water—unmerited divine assistance. We can’t earn grace! There is no list of good deeds that qualifies us for grace. Some authors hint that humility is a prerequisite for grace but that would be a subtle measure of merit and presumes the arrogant are exempt from grace. All of those terms depend on the duality of judgments made in the intellectual process of our humanity.
Here’s how I view grace: the elastic in the operation of divine principle that is both mysterious and universal. “Elastic”? Elastic gives and makes more room. Who doesn’t put on their stretchy pants when dressing for a big meal? Sometimes it seems that I don’t reap exactly what I sow and I am grateful! I speak the words, “This is killing me” and it doesn’t. There is mystery in spiritual principle that defies the easy exactness of the limits in human understanding. Everyone is subject to divine principle at work and everyone receives grace. What is different is that we all have unique lives, unique needs and lessons and gifts. So, it makes sense that grace shows up differently for each of us. Not that some receive grace and some don’t. Maybe some of us see grace more clearly and express gratitude more easily but I am confident we all receive grace, whatever our religious beliefs are. I don’t pretend to know how grace is activated or how it shows up in the lives of others although I remain confident it appears for everyone. In this way, we are actually connected through grace. What if we are here in this earthly experience to learn there is more strength, more comfort and more power in connection than in separation? Wouldn’t that be ironic? Our human efforts to find safety and comfort in separation are all for naught. Our fear is unnecessary.
Grace is here and grace is there, for me and for you. With my walker, I continue to make my way forward on the unique path unfolding for me. Others race forward on limber legs and others power forward in chairs with and without motors. Grace is equally distributed among us and no one will cross the finish line a moment before or later than it is meant to happen.