I think my eyes get cloudy in all the wrong the places. I am working hard to paint my house coordinating colors, to center the pictures I hang on walls, and put my books on the shelves in some kind of coherent order. I’m really quite clear about these things. But grace, a reality as crucial to life as air–here I get quite cloudy.
Of course, picture hanging is “concrete.” Corners are either level…or not. But grace is a theological construct. Two many corners to count, and much too hard to see what level might mean. So, because grace is so much more complicated than color, I am content to see it through cloudy eyes.
But when the walls are all beautifully painted and the pictures neatly hung, when I can sit in my office and admire all of my books on grace neatly arranged, this reality remains: if I cannot live enveloped in God’s grace, I will be too internally restless to rest in my lovely new surroundings. I need grace like I need air.
So what is grace? The angel Gabriel proclaimed its existence in Mary, and the apostle John announced its presence in Jesus. Hail Mary, full of grace. Jesus came to us, full of grace- so full that those who encountered him received grace upon grace. The apostle Paul pulls us in by proclaiming all of us-Jew and Gentile-in-graced “in the Beloved”-perpetually filled by our elder brother and Lord Jesus who is now worthy to receive and bestow every gift earthly and heavenly.
If I stay right here, not content to be cloudy due to the immensity of the topic, I can make a couple of observations. This “grace” has everything to do with divine favor; it is always received as gift, and there is never any shortage of it.
And I am intrigued. For me this is a word with a reality that needs more dusting off than my travel-weary shelves. I really want to know the reality of being filled with grace…again. One way to see grace is the rich love of a triune God when it turns earthward. I know that there are more facets to the love between Father, Son and Spirit than I will ever comprehend, and so it is with this triune God’s humanity seeking grace.
I wonder if one concrete way to understand grace is to see my life as a bowl that was made to be filled with heavenly nectar to be taken, tasted, sipped, drunk deeply; nourishing, sustaining, growing, creating. But my human bowl has been cut off from that which was intended to give me heavenly life, and only when grace fills that bowl do I taste again the reality of the God who made me for Himself, sip some inkling of what He intended to make in me, and drink of the nourishment I need for a life that has been re-connected to the Source of all life for ever.
So sometimes grace is rest and sometimes it is courage. Sometimes grace is joy and sometimes it is the freedom to love another without asking to be paid back. Sips of grace open my eyes to see more than colors and corners. When I again receive of the grace that comes through Jesus I taste divine favor, anticipating the day when I, through no merit of my own, will sit at a banquet table at which my place has been prepared since before the world was made.
Grace. God’s love earthward. Hail Mary, you who are full of divine favor. Hail Jesus, you who are full of grace and truth. Grace, that heavenly nourishment that was poured out on all of us at Pentecost, filling in our hearts in the Holy Spirit, opening cloudy eyes and bringing rest and hope to weary souls.