Minister’s Musings – What is Grace?

“Do we know what it means to be struck by grace? It does not mean that we suddenly believe that God exists, or that Jesus is the Saviour, or that the Bible contains the truth. To believe that something is, is almost contrary to the meaning of grace.”                                                                                                    – Paul Tillich, 20th Century Theologian

Recently, I was asked by a congregant “What is Grace to you?” It struck me that I use the word, grace, a lot in my ministry and have not really taken the time to define what I mean by it. 

I encountered my idea of grace while in seminary and especially while I was working as a hospital chaplain. I kept a running dialogue in my mind of all my failures, all my guilt and shame, and all the things I should have been doing. Finally, one day someone suggested I give myself some grace and be okay with ‘good enough.’ That the paper I was writing was ‘good enough;’ that the way I was parenting was ‘good enough;’ that the way I was as a person was ‘good enough.’

In other words, grace gave me the ability to accept me for who I am and what my limitations were. That instead of beating up on myself for what I did not do or should have done, I was able to own it and let go of it. 

This idea of acceptance is the foundation of Universalism. We are each accepted for who we are as a person and in turn through that acceptance we can experience love. Grace is not something to be defined, but something to experience within ourselves and in connection to that which is larger than ourselves. 

Or as Paul Tillich explains:

“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life…It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear…

Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying:
‘You are accepted. YOU are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now, perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!'”

Peace & Grace,
Rev. Laura

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