According to Webster’s, grace is “unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification”. I offer a rudely boisterous razberry to Mr. Webster for that definition. Because it does not fit my understanding or experience of the word at all. Mary Oliver’s poem “Mindful” sums it up far more exactly for me, beginning: “Every day/I see or I hear/something/that more or less/kills me/with delight/that leaves me/like a needle/in the haystack/of light.”
For me, grace is not so much a gift – unmerited or no – from the divine, but an awareness that the divine exists and that we are part of it: part of something bigger than ourselves, part of the community of life on Planet Earth, and of the Universe at large. It’s a momentarily flash of beauty so simple and stunning that our heart stops and our breath catches at the sight of it. It is a flock of goldfinches clustered like a ray of sunshine on the feeder outside when the sky is dark with clouds and the heart is full of grief. It is the petals of a perfect red rose cupping diamonds of rainwater after a cleansing storm. It is the brilliant yellow leaf the wind tossed against the red ceramic pot, just so, as if to make you smile. It is the inquisitive stare of the freshly hatched praying mantis that makes you laugh when you thought laughter was lost to you. It is the kiss of a lover, the voice of a friend calling to say hello at exactly the moment you needed them most, is the feeling of a child’s small hand wrapping itself around your finger with absolute faith and trust.
Most of all, I believe grace is awareness. Beauty exists all around us, but we’re often closed off to it by our busy minds, our busy lives, our resistance to simply letting go and letting be. So grace, by this definition, is not something handed down to us. It is, rather, our ability to recognize the beauty and the power in life’s little moments of glory. Because, for most of us, these little moments happen around us and to us all the time. It’s just a matter of us being still enough and awake enough to see them for what they are, and to give thanks – to the divine, to the Universe, to our beloveds and to ourselves – for the gift being offered.