What I Know About Grace

Deeper than the content of an exchange, more impactful than the physical world--that's grace.

There to whisper to you when you're about to say something you don't mean; there to guide you, to slow you down; when you feel totally lost and are searching desperately for a sign--that's grace.

Shining behind the clouds of the greyest day.The comfort, however large or small, of something warm between your hands when its cold, that spark of gumption to get out of bed when it feels like there is no point--that is grace.

To me, grace is like empathy; it shows up when you need it most, and being familiar with it is a learned practice. We are born with grace and empathy, yes. We lose it, sometimes for years.

Throughout the course of life: When the negative stories talk louder and scare stronger than grace can whisper, when the other hurts us deeper than we think we can dig to forgive, when we set our sights on achieving something only to be dashed into pieces by disappointment. Those are the times when we can choose to forget that grace ever existed. But that does not mean it isn't there.

Like so many other practices, inviting grace into our lives is a personal one. We can't be gracious and graceful to others if we are not that way to ourselves. There is no one 'right' methodology to grace, and everyone's stories with it will be different.

Grace has different meanings for and impacts on each person it touches. But, universally, when we reach for grace, it will reach back for us. And when grace reaches for us, we can always reach back. It will show up even when we don't. We can ignore it, look past it, search for it ardently, but it is there all along. It is waiting to be felt.

Maybe it shows up on a day when I feel slow, unaccomplished, messy, maybe even a little grouchy. And then my son smiles at me and says, "Mama, you look so beautiful in your nightgown." Stopping to see myself through his eyes at that moment, to me, is grace.

We will struggle to find grace in our lives when, looking around at our environments, we do not apparently see it. Maybe it was never modeled for us in our early relationships. Maybe it was so embedded in religious context that we feel we disconnected from it when we made choices to step away from religious teachings.

Grace is not a religious practice, it is more than a religious teaching. It is a way of being and a way of receiving.

For me, I am seeing grace as a prelude to gratitude. When something that causes me hurt shows up and I accept it with grace, I can then move on to gratitude for the situation more easily. I am seeing for myself that grace does not mean giving up the fight. Grace means accepting something that cannot be won with a fight and moving through it towards peace. And then, being grateful that I chose that path, or that the path chose me.

As kids, we are told to be gracious losers and winners. Even more helpful is when we are shown how to do that. What I feel this means to me now, as a grown woman, is that losing graciously is honoring what is happening, being steady in my own belief that not all is meant to be had, and letting it go with peace. There is a Willie Nelson & Margo Price song whose chorus asks, "Is winning really learning to lose?" Perhaps, for me, this is what it means to learn to lose: gracefully and graciously.

Growing up, and as a woman, I have always admired certain qualities in my mentors and other women I respected and looked up to. Recalling how I described these women in my journals, I am aware that 'graceful' and 'gracious' were terms that were always associated with high esteem for their character. I saw grace modeled in the way they worked with, spoke to, and behaved towards others. At the time, I don't think I would've been able to clearly describe what grace was or what it meant. I did know that it was powerful, recognizable, and it was something I wanted to bring in to my own life.

I think the true beauty of grace is that we do not have to fully understand or be aware of it in order to give it or receive it. Certainly, it becomes even more powerful when we do. But, it is still entirely possible to engage grace in a variety of ways, even when we haven't registered ourselves as doing so.

Being fully disconnected from grace is something different, and that probably means being disconnected from gratitude and maybe even empathy and joy as well. These things usually follow each other around. And that is a good thing, because once we are connected to one, the others come around to receive us and show up in big ways for us as well.

The invitation is always there, and it is always an open one.

Grace can also and often be closely tied to an ending. For me, I am experiencing grace in the ways that I am able to show love and comfort to myself while I transition to a life without romantic partnership. Being gracious during this time means telling myself a new story.

Grace honors where I have been and where I am, and where I would like to go. It is the willingness to understand and accept that we are two flawed people who are not able to meet the other where they are.

It is forgiveness for past hurts, present hurt, and for a lost future. It is the opportunity to re-distribute energy into new possibilities, other relationships, and creating new space for something else. It is holding no ill will or resentment for something that cannot be changed or undone.

For I cannot change who I am in any way that would be traitorous to my true self, and so I cannot honor a relationship that asks me to. And the knowledge of that, to me, is grace. And perhaps grace is the opposite of logic at times. But I also know that not everything can be explained and justified and reasoned through. Some things just are, and grace is certainly one of them.