Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Struck by Grace in the New Year
As we begin another year, the gift I hope for all of us is the gift of grace. The late theologian Paul Tillich understood grace as "God's radical acceptance of us." My favorite Tillich quote on grace comes from his book, The Shaking of the Foundations.
Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we are estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us has they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: "You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that your are accepted!" If that happens to us we experience grace. After that experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed.