We’ve all heard the saying. It implies that, without God’s grace, I might be homeless like the guy on the corner with the “Will Work For Food” sign. Or, without God’s grace I, too, could be poor. Or disabled, or any number of other things that we fear.
The phrase came to mind for me one weekend while Hubby and I were out shopping.
We took the same southbound freeway exit that we always do, and stopped at the red light at the bottom of the hill. There was a white SUV in front of us, and as the light turned green, they proceeded forward. We proceeded forward. And then Hubby hit the brakes. That’s when I heard the crash. Someone headed west ran the red light and hit the SUV. I saw pieces of the front bumper fly off, and immediately said a prayer. “Please don’t let anyone be hurt!” No one was. As an empath I felt that, but as a person who second-guesses my feelings, I prayed throughout our stay at the scene. We parked a safe distance away and I stayed in the car calling 9-1-1 while Hubby dashed across the street to render aid.
It was shocking. It was scary. And if just one thing had been different, it could have been us. Except we weren’t driving an SUV, so the outcome could have been very different.
I like to call our little Dodge Avenger our “recycled-aluminum-can” car. The day after we bought it, Hubby opened the driver door and it bent. The hinges stuck and the door pushed into the front fender (next to the tire) and actually bent the metal. Hubby fixed it, and it hasn’t been a problem since, but I sometimes wonder what would happen if we were in an accident.
Around the time we bought the car (for unrelated reasons), Hubby made some changes in his driving. He decided that getting somewhere fast wasn’t as important as getting there safe. So he does not exceed the speed limit. If we had “hurried” to the store like we might have three years before, if we hadn’t gone back in the house to grab my purse, if we hadn’t stopped for gas, if there had been less traffic…
“There, but for the grace of God…” Wait a minute!
I have joked that I am God’s favorite. I have a friend who calls on occasion to ask if I will use my “direct line” to say a prayer for her or a friend in need. But I know me. And because I do, I can unequivocally state that God has no favorites. He/She/It loves each of us as much as the other. I know this, because I know that He loves ME. And if He loves ME, you can bet your sweet potatoes that He loves YOU just as much. I am no worse than the best of us; but I am no better than the worst. I am just me, making my way through the maze with the rest. Nothing I do can put me in, or remove me from, God’s good graces. God is love. God is not opposition, God is LOVE. That is all.
“There, but for the grace of God, go I”, implies that there are some to whom God chooses not to show grace. As a receiver of God’s grace – and not just a little bit of it – I find this absurd.
As much as we mere mortals sometimes pride ourselves on being able to judge who is “good” and who is “bad”, God does not have that luxury. We are ALL His children. The terrorist and the terrorized; the accused and the accuser; the guilty and the innocent; the Christian and the Muslim and the Jew and the spiritual and the atheist; the black and the brown and the white and the yellow; the gay, the straight, the lesbian, the transgender, the poor, the rich, the EVERYONE. He may, like we, choose which of us He prefers in His presence, but He does not practice hate. He does not practice fear. He does not practice exclusion. He does not choose to bestow grace on some and allow others to do without.
It is my belief and experience that I am not strong enough to be the example that others are able to be. I could not survive as the homeless veteran standing on the freeway exit ramp asking for work or food, standing as an example of compassion. I may not do well as a lesbian in high school, standing as an opportunity for all of us to embrace the differences of others, calling for acceptance. Or any of the others who stand as examples and opportunities for each of us to do better. BE better. Make better.
People who are “different” are not dis-graced by God. Perhaps they are the best of the best, chosen BY God to teach the rest of us grace.
Be God’s grace.