For many of us in the U.S., this marks more than six months that we have been in quarantine. I refer to it as ‘self solituding’ and the experience has been both terrifying and comforting. In mid-March, as the buds were beautifully blossoming, I was turning inward, attempting to wrap my mind around the possibility […]
This oft-spoken statement rippled through my mind yesterday as I was with people whose daughter/niece/granddaughter had died 11 years ago, at age five, of a brain tumor. Throughout the day, I also chanced to speak with others who had either lost loved ones, or they themselves had been diagnosed with cancer. I chatted with a mother whose young daughters had physical conditions that necessitated a wheelchair in one case and a cane, in the other. One was 10 and the other 13. I found myself shaking my head in awe about how they all eloquently expressed themselves about what they had been through. Although my family and I have also experienced what might be called tragedy, I recall something paradoxical that my father used to say, “If that’s the worst thing that ever happens to you, you’ll be okay.” I have had a paradoxical relationship with that line since although it was meant to be encouraging, it also felt dismissive of my feelings when life took a turn I hadn’t anticipated.
When I researched the origin of the line, I found that it came from a supposed statement in the mid-sixteenth-century from John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford”, in reference to a group of prisoners being led to execution.
Another reference: A paraphrase from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:8–10, which states, “Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am…”.
I admit that I have used this blessing when I have escaped pain, disability and turmoil. I thought about it when driving recently. There are times when I am awash in anxiety about the state of the world that I feel I have no control over resolving and when I bemoan aspects of my life that are not as I would have them be. It’s then that I am grateful for the creature comforts of home, car, food, and clothing, the marvels of modern technology of computer and cell phone and the fact that I experience ‘first world problems’. I am blessed with wonderful friends and family; surrounded by love. I could have been born in a refugee camp. I could be homeless. I could be alone.
I remind myself that even those who don’t have what I do are not outside God’s grace. They are not cursed or abandoned. The God of my understanding doesn’t pick and choose who will go without and who will be showered with all they need and want. Those labeled ‘good,’ by society’s standards still experience trauma and tragedy and those who do dishonest and harmful things, still (at least temporarily) have life’s thumbs up in terms of surface success.
People get sick. People die. Forces of nature decimate communities. Violence threatens safety. Is it because God was off duty?
Do prayers prevent these things from occurring? Sometimes it seems so. At others, we are left scratching our heads and wondering why they weren’t answered with the outcome in mind when we offered them.
Some events seem out of our purview. We may have no control over circumstances, but we do have the right and responsibility to determine our response. Still not sure where Spirit fits into this formula. I have frequent ‘God-versations’ during which I ask the meaning of what transpires and what I can do to move through it with as much ease and flow as possible. I request Divine guidance and bolstering when I feel like I am flailing. Maybe that is what God’s grace truly is.
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