Kerry Campbell ponders the grace we're given by God and how we can share that grace with others.
When you think of the word "grace," what comes to your mind? Is it the prayer you say around a table before you eat a meal? The period of time before the late fees start to accrue on a bill or a debt? Do you think of good manners or an elegant way of being in the world? Maybe there’s a particular graceful person that comes to mind? I hope so. Or when you hear the song "Amazing Grace," what does that song make you feel?
To illustrate grace today I’d like to tell you a story about my dog Bailey and a perfect tuna sandwich. And maybe you’ve never heard of tuna described as a means of grace before, but that’s probably because you’ve never had a perfect tuna sandwich before, so please allow me to offer that the addition of feta, cucumber, roasted red peppers, and Dijon mustard on really good sourdough bread just may change everything for you, sandwich-wise.
Anyway, on this particular day, Bailey and I were home alone, which had been a rare occurrence during pandemical times. We had taken a long walk on that unseasonably warm April morning, and she was outside in the yard, attached to her lead and resting in the sun while I was inside making my lunch.
I was putting together my perfect sandwich when I looked out the window and saw my pup and just knew how much she’d would love a couple of bites, so I put a little bit of tuna in a ramekin and brought it out to Bailey on the patio with a bowl of fresh cold water. And I sat and watched her enjoy it and just watching her sheer delight brought me such deep joy, too. And as I sat there, soaked in the sun, I thought, this is a picture of how God is gracious to me.
And here’s what I mean by that:
Bailey did not earn that tuna. She didn’t even ask for the tuna. I just knew she’d like it and motivated only by my desire for Bailey’s well-being and happiness, I moved toward her first. It was my impulse and my action and my gift. As Catholics, we can feel like we have to muscle through and earn our spiritual lives with works of service or prayer, but friend, that is just not so. The amazingly graceful truth is that God is always moving toward us first. Even your desire to pray or to draw close to Him in relationship - that is always God inviting you first, simply because He loves you. It’s so easy for us Catholics to believe it’s all on us, but this big, undeserved, abundant, lavish love of God is grace. It’s free, undeserved, unbidden, and unlimited.
So, out there in my yard that day, I gave to Bailey out of the very best I had. She didn’t get my scraps or leftovers, though she would probably have been happy with those, and she certainly did not or would ever get anything from my hand that might harm her – and all of this is a picture of how God gives to us, too. Remember when Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.” That’s His own peace He’s giving us. Jesus gave out of His own life, and left nothing back, and He takes whatever little bits we have and multiplies those for our good and the good of our brothers and sisters and He does this all the time, every day.
This kind of divine math can be a struggle for us sometimes because It’s just not a fair equation and we humans like and are used to operating with justice and balance on the scales. But with God, we don’t get out what we put in – it’s not work and reward. It’s not karma. It’s an upside-down, non-logical math which is insanely and unfairly lopsided for our good.
In the span of that day, I responded to Bailey’s needs and wants, and there was never a moment that I wasn’t aware of how and where she was. Because, more than the things I give and do for my pup is the gracious reality of her being. You could say that Bailey’s very life is held in grace just because she belongs to us and she’s part of our family, that every breath she takes and every pillow she sleeps on and every bit of her day is colored with the grace of being cared for by me and my family, even if she never sees or appreciates any of what we provide for her. Even if she never says thank you or acknowledges her reality in any way.
And this is true for us too. We can be grateful for many aspects of our lives, and we can thank God in prayer, and we should, but most of our everyday reality is just like the water we swim in and we just don’t know the many ways that grace is operating in our lives right now. After all, we don’t tell our hearts to beat or count the hairs on our own heads. We can’t plan for the interactions we have each day when God shows up for us unbidden through a person or opportunity or the words in a book or lyrics of a song that speak directly to our spirits at just the right time. We don’t see the many ways in which grace has saved us from physical, emotional, or spiritual danger over the course of our lives, though one day we will, and I bet we’ll be awestruck by it.
In our hardships, we might see most clearly the ways that God is coming to us, and that’s a grace in and of itself, but the truth is that so much of the nature of our lives is the reality that we are being held in love by a God whose gaze is always on us, always looking for ways to give us what we need, always seeking our good, even when we wouldn’t necessarily choose the things that are good for us.
Grace can show up as stuff like tuna or a new job or a kind word, or it can be quieter, seeping in as a divine influence on our spirits and emotions. Grace can inspire our virtue or action, and thank God, grace sanctifies us and makes us holy. It can come in the things we ask for or the things we don’t know we need. That last breath you took – that was grace and the next one is too. As for our part, we can put ourselves in the path of grace, or we can let it flow through us for the benefit of others. We can participate in grace and it’s so good when we do, but we can’t ever make it. And that’s why grace is such good news.
As we move forward in faith, let’s open our eyes to the many ways in which God is moving toward us, always, in love. Let’s put ourselves in the path of grace, and the best we can, let’s participate in it. Let’s let God multiply grace in our lives as we see our sisters and brothers with clear eyes and serve them. Because when our lives are done, we will see all of the many ways grace was at work in our one ordinary life ... and friend, I think it will nothing less than amazing.
Copyright 2021 Kerry Campbell
Images: dog photo copyright 2021 Kerry Campbell, all rights reserved; all others Canva Pro
About the Author
Kerry Campbell is a Catholic-Christian preschool music teacher, church cantor, writer, full-time noticer, and Mom to two college students. She’s letting the details of her life inform her wider view in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. She loves connecting with readers, so find her writing at MyLittleEpiphanies.com and please say hello!