Column: Being grateful to God for gift of grace
We often talk about Grace, but how many know what grace is? Grace is a gift, an undeserved gift from God. God loves us unconditionally and regardless if we are a believer or not. Grace is a present to us, no strings attached. Grace prompts us to do good. It gives us the energy to send a meal to a sick neighbor, sits with a dying person, or rock a small child crying back to sleep at night. It could help us be generous to the many charities in need. Grace gives us the ability to see the needs of others and calls us to give of ourselves in some way.
One of the things that grace can do in our lives is to give us the courage to do things we thought we could never do. Why? Because we were too shy, or too unskilled, or too busy with other interests. Our experience or selfish nature leads us to believe we cannot accomplish what is being asked, so we don’t act. We shrink from a task, challenge, or request for a million reasons. It gives us strength for the challenge to accept a situation that may be difficult. Grace flows where it is needed. It has no calling card, and whether we want it or not, it is ours.
I have a dear friend whom I have known for many years. She was a professor at a prestigious university. She left her teaching post early to help her elderly mother. Her mother had lost her husband, and no other family members could help. She could have put her mother in a home, but the daughter wanted to care for her herself. So, she willingly took on the role of caregiver. The caregiver of an older person is full of challenges, although it sounds like a simple undertaking on the surface. The repetitive nature of the care, the daily simple routine, and the same stories her mother told repeatedly were draining. The medical responsibility and the clash of wills with her mother on minor issues were overwhelming and often hurtful. It got harder and harder to cope with the situation.
My friend was anxious because she did not realize what she had undertaken. She did not think she could go any further with the duties needed. Grace is a gift that we do not earn, and it is sent by God, who loves us, regardless of whether we recognize him in our life. Just when she thought she could no longer be a caregiver to her mother, she took the Grace given, drew herself up to the task, and stayed several years till her mother passed. Grace gave her the strength to do what she thought she could never do. Grace allows us to see others and help and operate in the arena of hope and care with compassion. We can accept and alleviate suffering because grace has entered our lives to help us with the needed patience and resilience. Grace is a gift given freely to help us be who we were created to be.
Can grace be refused? Yes, it can. Our selfishness often refuses grace to do what is asked of us. It becomes all about what we want or desire. They have chosen to be on a singular lonely path. Loneliness can lead to discontent, allowing choices that transform individuals who cannot see the need for community, kindness, or compassion for others. They become unhappy with themselves, and their behavior can be toxic. The mass shootings plaguing our communities right now are an example. The rejection of grace is evident in the sadness and death these misguided souls bring to random victims and their families for whatever reason. The gunman feels estranged from their community and lacks compassion and understanding of themselves and others.
Grace is a gift. Given freely to make us who we are, to support our humanity, allowing us to see our membership in the global family. Grace always prompts us to do good. It allows us to grow in directions that we perhaps never thought possible. Grace gives us the gift of ourselves to do good and grow into our true potential as human beings. A gift from God, no strings attached!
Kathleen Carlton Johnson, Ph.D., hospice chaplain, may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.