Grace in the “Big Bad World”

The other day, I was puzzled, having to choose between two very important tasks. Should I help my son with a report on civil rights that wasn’t due for a week, or work on this column? The report would require Internet research, the column only a clear brain, on my part. As insignificant as the decision, I asked the Divine for a sign.

Angel Gabriel must have been busy, as I didn’t get a truly dependable communiqué from above, but my wild Golden Retriever stood in for him. Tale wiggling, he dragged my son’s school folder out from under the couch, where it had been kicked in a snafu between he and the blind-deaf dog, and stood over it, happily growling.

Okay, maybe I read too much into the divine-intervention-through-a-dog-theme, but I’m SO not into trundling up in winter wear to search for omens from Nature outside. There’s enough animal species living within my four walls to qualify me as a zoologist. And since God created all creatures, I’ll take my signs even from the most questionable of sources, as long as I get to stay warm in the process.

In the end, I’ll stick with my story that the Honey-dog revealed God’s will, for Jack Frost moved into Bloomington-Minnesota-land later that evening, knocking out my Internet for several days. No Net—no research. No research—no school report. Only my home and the local free Internet haunts are ever affected, but in my world, technology quits when it’s below ten above. Go figure.

And that left the column for later, with an obvious topic:

I know; it might seem like a stretch, the connection between a tiny life detail and the hugeness of Grace, but stay with me. The question is, if Grace grants aid for the smallest line items, why not for the really big stuff? The stuff that scares most of us? The stuff in “The Big Bad World.”

The fact that I claim my son Gabriel’s homework completion as a sign of Grace makes sense, if you share my definition of Grace. Which is NOT, I repeat NOT, the one I learned in childhood. Raised White Wonder bread Lutheran, I was served the Church’s version of Grace alongside potluck hot dishes: Grace as an undeserved gift from God.

Now if anything’s going to make you feel bad, it’s first having someone tell you that you don’t deserve anything from God and second, even if you’re given a helping hand, it’s not like you’re liked or anything. Grace is just God doing the job of keeping us quiet.

The truth is that Grace has nothing to do with being “bought off.” Grace is actually nothing more—or less—than the continual presence of active goodness.

It’s sometimes hard to believe in goodness. It’s politically correct for me to also add, “especially in times like this.” These days, “times like this” means economic crisis, chaos, negativity, fears, and more fears. A few decades ago, “times like this” would have involved a war; in another eon, child labor; in yet a different era, the Black Plague. We’re always trying to survive some sort of times; we just forget that there have always been other equally challenging situations.

No MATTER the circumstances, however, there is always goodness. There are always people who help other people. There are those who give from largesse. There are children who speak the truth to the adults that have forgotten it. There are individuals who stand out in a crowd and remind us that we should all have dreams. And there are dogs that wag their tales to signify both great and small signs: The tail wags—the dinner is edible. The tail droops droops, there’s always the disposal.

The issue isn’t if there is goodness; it’s if we are willing and able to sense, follow, embrace, and become it. Are we willing to act, and also allow goodness to act upon (and within) us? And then finally—are we willing go a step further, and invite the Greatest Good—that Higher Power, the Christ, Divinity, Great Spirit, God—to accomplish what we cannot.

There’s a caveat attached to my last statement. If we’re really willing to ask for greater help—and to become a force of greater good-, we have to release control. Inviting Grace isn’t like ordering up a hamburger hold-the-pickle light mayo at McDonalds. You might ask for a hamburger and get a veggie burger, because you’re really supposed to be on a diet. Or maybe you’ll get a steak, because God’s feeling celebratory that day. You never know. I do know, however, that all things are possible through Grace—through the administration of the goodness always present.

Some people don’t believe in goodness or that there is a source of superhuman care. I know there’s Grace because every day in my office, I witness divine intervention. One of my clients was offered a job just as he spent his last dime. Literally. Another qualified for unemployment, although she didn’t think she would. Another client prayed for healing and the tumor started coming out of her breast. Yet another client discovered that in owning her anger about being sexually abused, she was suddenly flooded with love for herself and has since, decided that maybe she is worth something after all.

And even as I sit here, I hear the purring of Johnny T. (The) Cat, whose very life is a testimony to Grace. We adopted him from a rescue mission, and all because I had envisioned him in a dream the night before. Now that’s sweet, but the powerful part is that I’ve been dreadfully allergic to cats my entire life. And wouldn’t you know it. I now live with the only cat in the world that doesn’t make me sneeze. How is that for Grace?

If Grace is goodness, it might very well be exactly what we need, especially during “this time”—or maybe, all times! There’s Grace behind the signs that show us the way, Grace behind the doors that slam in our face, and Grace that renews our hope daily. Grace helps us recognize the good instead of the bad, the good in the bad, and the choices that allow us to become a force for good rather than a perpetrator of bad.

In the end, there is simply…Grace.