About this blog: Discussing religion, spirituality and values. About the writers: Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. Janet Marshall is the religion editor for The Free Lance-Star.
I was a relatively new religion reporter when I made the critical error.
It was understandable, really. A common mistake.
While talking with a source, a pastor, I used the phrase, "There but for the grace of God."
I’d heard it all the time. Volunteers used it to explain their charity. People offered it as an excuse for kindness.
But this pastor didn’t like it.
"I don’t use that phrase," she said. "It implies the grace of God isn’t with that other person. And I believe grace is for everyone."
Truly, I didn’t know what grace was. I’m still not sure. I hear about it all the time. People use it to describe a gift, a kindness, a small miracle.
Sunshine after a week of rain. A newly opened parking space. A stranger’s helping hand.
They also use it to describe the death of Jesus Christ: as a sacrifice for his followers.
It seems a bit crazy that one word can carry both weights. And a bunch of stuff in between.
As I cover religion, I’ve become more and more intrigued by the concept of grace. I’ve read books, talked with pastors, studied the Scriptures. But that’s not where you find grace. (Although, I’ve read some really great books on the topic. I recommend: "The Ragamuffin Gospel," "What’s So Amazing About Grace?" and "Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace." Also, it’s not completely on topic but includes a good discussion on cheap grace vs. costly grace: "The Cost of Discipleship.")
I’ve found it more in the homeless man convinced of Jesus’ love, the grieving parents who don’t doubt the goodness of God even after their child dies, the people who prayed for healing and got more sickness, those who struggle every single day to find grace but somehow manage to hang on.
Grace isn’t news. It’s been around for centuries. Definitely since Jesus’ time, but you could argue that grace is found in the Hebrew Bible, too. In the rainbow after the flood, babies after decades of infertility, forgiveness after adultery.
So, really, grace isn’t something I should cover. But I recently experienced that familiar let-down after a big project. While talking with a friend, I received some good advice: Write about something you’re passionate about. Exhausted from the project and back-to-back winter illnesses, I couldn’t think of a single thing I really cared that much about.
And then I thought of grace.
I certainly don’t plan on defining it. But I want to show it. What it looks like. In the same gritty way you find it in the Scriptures.
It’s a little ambitious, I know. I have some ideas already. But if you have some, please share.