I was sitting with a couple of friends a few days ago at the bookstore when a group of young men began discussing the idea of divine grace. One explained to the other that grace is what is given when one is not made to pay for a wrong they committed. The concept echoed inside my mind while my hands got wrapped up in the art project I was enmeshed. I toyed with it for a few days, considering the various uses of the word grace.
To be graceful, to say grace, amazing grace.
Then yesterday, I had two challenging interactions in which I felt hard pressed to behave in my usually graceful manner. You know how it goes, it happens to all of us. First, I realized something wasn’t going quite right, then after a few attempts to make things better, I realized I am stuck. My blood started to boil, I tried to calm down with a deep breath, but the situation felt like it escalated. Suddenly, my tongue went sharp, and I found it hard to talk without shooting darts with my words.
I feel out of sorts when that happens. My newest strategy is to share what is going on inside me and to describe what is going on in the situation. Sometimes that can make things messy, but yesterday it worked. In both situations, I tried to connect with the other people I was struggling with. When I chose to connect, I was rewarded. Gates that seemed to be closed opened.
Neither situation miraculously got better, but in the moments just after the conflict reached it peak, I could feel myself turn the grace back on and that made me feel like something positive had taken place. I wish I could say I got my way in the end, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. Grace isn’t about forcing one person’s way over another’s. It is a gift.
After hearing the young men talk about divine grace, I realized today that I was giving a very similar kind of gift. In both situations, I had to stand up for myself and help to negotiate my needs along with the needs of others. Doing this with grace meant I could say to another that they were in the wrong without insinuating that something was wrong with them. It meant supporting them as we each shared our perspective.
That goes against some ways of thinking. Why would I build up my opponent?!
Well, choosing grace helps us realize that not all situations of difference are about winning or losing. They are about collaboration.
This isn’t the first time I have chosen grace, but somehow the concept of grace has made itself known to me in a powerfully new way, as if it slid from my head down to my heart. And I have to tell you that having had a taste of it, I want more.
May you experience grace today: the giving and the receiving.