Friday, February 25, 2005

The Dynamics of Grace

Few things make us feel so strong, so powerful, as a good case of righteous indignation. Few joys are as great as the joy of being wronged.

On the other hand, few things leave us so open, so exposed, so humilitated as being loved. When love is given freely, made visible by another person's actions towards us...what could be more powerful or moving?

Her name was Mary. I knew her for years as a Friend and mother to boys, slightly older than myself. She wasn't a deep thinker or a big talker. She didn't care to talk much about her reasons. She simply cared for those along the way who were hers to care for.

Mary's parents had died when she was a young girl. She'd been raised by a passel of older siblings, aunts and uncles all with a combination of drinking and heart problems. Sometimes they raised her, sometimes she raised them.

When Mary died at all too young an age, she left behind a husband and two sons, all grief stricken, but relieved that her wracked body was finally out of pain. She also left behind a community of people whose lives she touched in little ways, little but profound.

When I make lunches for my children, who are now clearly old enough to do this for themselves, I often think of Mary. Its because of her I still make their lunches. --Her older boy at 17 had been old enough to make lunch for himself, and he had a summer job working across the street from their house, but there was Mary in the kitchen, making the kid his lunch. Surely he was old enough to do this for himself. Surely at 17 he ought to be learning responsiblity?

Joe (we'll call him that) was on his way to becoming a carpenter, a dime a dozen framer for the union was his goal. Mary looked at her son and saw him for what he was, one in a billion, one alone in all the world. She cherished him, but she knew that chances were good the world wouldn't see him for what he was. "I want him always to know and remember that someone loved him enough to make him his lunch, to know that he was that special that I wanted to do that for him."

That was the gift Mary gave to me.

On Saturday after an afternoon of cross country skiing, my children and some friends were squirreled away upstairs. I'd made them cocoa for after the ski. They were already up, playing cards by the time it was ready. Surely they could come down and get it themselves? But then I remembered Mary and thought, I'd like them to know, without even noticing that it was anything at all, that they are loved enough for someone to bring them something nice, just because they are so loved.

And I realized then, as I do very often, that it's thanks to some one else's love that I have that gift in my heart to give. It came from Mary, it came from God, it came from the gift of creation itself. I don't need to name it grace, but that's what it is, and I'm grateful to feel these things, to know them, from the inside.

And you. Do you see it moving that way in your life? Where do you see it? How does it pour out of you? These are hard things to talk about, opening ourselves that way. This isn't nearly such heavy lifting as discerning the origin and possible meaning of the galaxy. Still, in light of the question of beginings, here's an opportunity to consider what acts of love freely given we've accepted and passed along, and to ponder their origin, possibly from one great gift that loved us all into being just exactly as we are. And to ponder all of that, this is just an invitation to try...