Grace is a beautiful word. It conjures images of:
- A ballerina performing Swan Lake
- Francis of Assisi loving all the creatures of God’s creation
- Mother Theresa quietly ministering in the streets of Calcutta
- The Kootenai River powerfully yet gracefully watering the lands of Southwest Canada, Northwest Montana, and Northern Idaho
- My wife’s artwork – the product of her graceful mind
- Jesus counseling with the woman taken in adultery
I’m sure you can think of many more examples of grace, and each of us would have our own, with much overlap, but much uniqueness. Perhaps grace is our ability to perceive beauty.
Consider, though, the idea that grace, like God, “just is”. It is beauty; it is love; it is harmony. Grace is all perfection. Grace is poetry – beautiful, timeless, divine poetry. Consider that grace is the essence of creation, of divinity. Anything that is not grace, then, simply is not.
There is a young woman who reads her poetry at the open mic event once a month at our local performance venue – the Pearl Theater. She is a large woman and she appears to be self-conscious of her appearance – in spite of the fact that she always dresses with style and taste. She is obviously very sensitive, but she chooses to remain vulnerable. She has been bullied, betrayed, and hurt, probably all of her life. This is obvious because her writing is filled with pain and anger. But it is also filled with defiance and resilience. It’s as if she is saying, “World, nothing you can dish out to me is going to break me. I DO have worth. I AM beautiful. No matter how loudly you shout at me otherwise, I am NOT going to listen, because I am love, and I believe”.
This young woman read a piece one time in which she said (paraphrased), “The first time I came to the Pearl Theater, I was desperately nervous. Not only that, but I was perhaps at the lowest point in my life. I was thinking about ending it all…that life was not even worth living. But I overcame my fears. I signed up for the open mic. I walked on the stage. I read. I was vulnerable and I poured my heart out. And the Pearl received me. The Pearl loved me. And I found hope.”
In this young woman, despite the fact that her life is scarred with polarity, with insensitivity, and with betrayal, I perceived grace. She, in her divinity, turned this opposition and conflict into beauty, into love, into harmony…into poetry.
She received fear, but she returned grace.
But grace is also used in a religious context. It’s one of those words, like “salvation”, “sin”, “faith” (there are so many), that we use a lot, but whose definitions are never really precise and clear. Much is left to interpretation, and their interpretation often defines the difference between churches or religions. Wars have been fought over such defnitions.
Grace is one of those words of which the Indigo Montoya character in “Princess Bride” would say:
“ You keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means”
This was my favorite definition of grace resulting from my search on line:
Grace: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. – Lexico on line dictionary powered by Oxford
I think, from the perspective of religious tradition, this is a pretty good definition. If you want to try to figure out why I do not like this definition – I invite you to do so – but that would just be a distracting rabbit hole at this time. Suffice it to say that this religious tradition has been being built, brick by brick, definition by definition, for millennia now, and we still don’t have Zion. Perhaps we need a new definition of grace.
Permit me to offer such a new definition. This came to me through inspiration. The source of that inspiration is irrelevant, as you need to decide for yourself whether it is inspiration for you. Since this definition was first revealed to me, I have tested it against situations and concepts that we usually describe with the word “Grace”. In my opinion, it has withstood each such test.
This definition of grace is, “The desire, willingness. and ability to love someone as they are…now”.
There is a simple elegance, even a “grace”, in this definition of “grace”. Nevertheless, I feel the need to expound on that elegance:
This definition is all about relationships. Loving is meaningless, even powerless, if it is not manifest in our relationships. Therefore, we must first have the desire to interact with others in love. We must have the desire to extend grace. We must desire to place our own needs, feelings, hopes, fears, etc. on at least equal footing with those of the people with whom we interact. We must desire empathy. Desire is the beginning of the faith / knowledge / creation cycle. Without the initial desire, no creation is ever possible.
This definition specifies the willingness to love. Not everyone is willing to love anyone for who they are now. Most of us are blinded, to at least some extent, by our ego. We trust in our sense of judgment and justice, of right and wrong…good and evil. Such things are clearly not grace. In order for a person to be willing, one must transcend the ego and its fear-based thoughts, and have faith in the ultimate power of love, and in the will and wisdom of God, which I think is defined quite eloquently by one word…Grace.
Most of us put conditions on our love, or we love someone for who they were, or who we hope they may be some day – if they make what we think are the “right” choices. The God that I know does not do that. The God I know is beyond any such worldly belief constructs. God’s grace, and therefore God’s love – is unconditional, and it is timeless. God is willing to give all the love we are willing to receive.
This definition of grace also calls for the ability to love. This ability is at best, for most of us, a work in progress. When we live in fear, or uncertainty, or with imperfect faith, it is very difficult to love any and all around us. Such an ability, in my mind, implies an ascended state of existence. Or, we may be able to extend love to some people and not others. God’s ability to love, on the other hand, is not something I ever question. If I were to question anything about God, I would question God’s ability to not love.
The Poetry of Grace
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Alma 29:1
What does it mean to “cry repentance unto every people”.
This can certainly be, and is, viewed differently by different people – by different traditions. In Mormonism, and in Christianity in general, repentance is implied by the traditional definition of grace mentioned above. “Repent, or face harsh judgment and punishment imposed by God” is the clear message of most western religion. Grace in this context is a conditional extension of the favor of God – of God’s blessings and love. Grace is described as the “free or unmerited” favor of God, but that extension of grace is still believed to be conditional upon repentance. Doctrinally, we must accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we must be baptized, we must repent and forsake our sins, and then grace will be extended in our behalf. But isn’t it “free or unmerited”? Or is it conditional? Ooooh, my head hurts. My head hurts a lot when I really ponder such things.
If I were to cry repentance, I would call for all men to repent of this belief, and instead to recognize that grace is extended unconditionally, and that this is a profound component of the “I AM” – the very nature – of God.
Such repentance would be simply that we learn to extend and receive grace as God does; that we seek that divine nature in ourselves. Our repentance would be a repentance from the ego, from judgment, from fear, from any ideas of justice, punishment, and conditional love. When we truly know God, we will know God in this way, and in this way only. This repentance is to be willing to, once again, extend and receive grace.
One morning this past week, I was praying about this definition of grace. It was spiritually breathtaking what was revealed to me, layer after layer, at that time:
- Grace is what it means to be “saved” – not from something, but to something – to love.
- Grace is the very foundation of Zion.
- Grace is the also foundation of all creation.
- Grace is the nature of God.
- Grace is the knowledge of God.
- Grace is what it means to one with God.
This definition of grace – “The desire, willingness, and ability to love someone for who they are…now” has become my personal standard of holiness. My ego makes this very difficult to achieve, but that makes it no less worthy an ensign – the ultimate ensign to the nations.
I have the desire.
I’m working on the willingness.
I hope to gain the ability.
I pray your patience, and my own, as I strive to extend as well as receive this precious grace that is the true “Grace of God”.