Photo by Lisa Tate
…I want first of all—in fact, as an end to these other desires—to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact—to borrow from the language of the saints—to live ‘in grace’ as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony…”
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The concept of grace has surfaced a lot in my reading lately. However, like Lindbergh, I’m not talking about grace in a theological sense. Although my spiritual seeking has continued and even deepened over the years, I have long since ceased being a “religious” person.
Grace isn’t something you earn or deserve or make happen. Although you can pray for grace, it most often arrives unexpectedly and unbidden and manifests in such a way that it leaves you with a feeling of awe, of peace, of being blessed.
As I said, I’m not a religious person. However, I do believe in a divine consciousness that connects us all and sometimes intervenes to encourage or guide or calm us—even if we aren’t paying attention and don’t acknowledge it. What one calls that consciousness—God or the Holy Spirit or Yahweh or Allah or Kwan Yin—doesn’t matter; grace appears in the lives of those who need it, regardless of religion or creed.
I’ve experienced moments and even extended periods of grace that have left me humbled and amazed, supported by unseen hands. In difficult times, I think it was the memories of these past graces that kept me from giving up and giving in when I thought the pain of what I was going through would surely be the end of me.
Like Lindbergh, I aspire to that state of living continually “in grace”—so at peace within myself that I am able to meet my life with equanimity, no matter what the circumstances. This last year has challenged me in that quest, but, even in the midst of all the recent stresses and fears and disappointments and heartaches, there have been small moments of grace, moments of inexplicable serenity and calm knowing that have defied the realities of the situation at hand.
As fragile and fleeting as they sometimes are, these moments of grace hold me up, keeping my spiritual head above water, giving me just enough strength to face what needs facing. I think this is what grace is all about: the ability to remain afloat—and at peace—no matter how stormy the seas that surround you.
I think we often pray for relief from our stresses rather than the ability to withstand them, and when we’re hurting or afraid, it’s understandable to want the pain or fear to go away. Many times, though, there is no quick fix. Many times, the best we can hope for is to find a place of calm centeredness from which to ride out the storm.
To live “in grace” during deeply stressful circumstances isn’t something we can force (though we may try), and I think this is what makes grace a mystery and a miracle—it comes upon us more often in spite of our efforts rather than because of them. We can ask, of course. We can pray for grace, but then we must get out of the way and let it come, believing that it will, and creating the inner space for it to do so.
Just in the last few days, I have stumbled my way into a state of grace, into a place of calm centeredness from which I am able to sense that—somehow—it will all be okay. I certainly don’t know how I found my way here, but then, that’s the way of grace. That I am here is enough, and I am grateful.