Finding Grace in the Everyday

by Karen Katafiasz

Spiritual seekers from across time and different faith traditions have offered many ideas about grace.

A simple definition common to most faiths is the benevolence or favor that God bestows on human beings. Many other words are applied to grace as well: God’s help, strength, blessing, salvation, gift, enlightenment, solace, protection, presence, and love.

Grace is a key concept in spirituality; yet, how much do we really believe in the presence of grace? With often overcrowded schedules and minds occupied by all the concerns of daily life, do we even notice when moments of grace occur?

Working Your Way Through. I began to see grace more clearly and value it more deeply when I was struggling to make sense of my husband’s death at 37.

Several years had passed when I picked up a book recommended by my sister, M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled. He defined grace as “a powerful force originating outside of human consciousness which nurtures the spiritual growth of human beings.” And he moved to the proposition that this “powerful force,” grace, comes from a loving, nurturing God.

The book brought me to new, unexpected awareness, growth, and understanding. I’m still discovering how grace shows up in my life and learning how to respond. I invite you to explore with me how to find grace in the everyday.

Open yourself to occurrences of grace. The way to notice grace is to simply “pay attention,” advises Presbyterian minister and writer Frederick Buechner. “Stop, look, and listen to life,” he suggests. Grace appears in many forms: in life’s passages (births, marriages, accomplishments), the familiar and commonplace (memories, dreams, songs, movies, holiday rituals), and the painfully harsh and demanding (conflict, divorce, job loss, the death of a loved one).

Often grace comes from the glorious, exasperating, most unpredictable source of all: other people. My grade school religion teachers warned about avoiding “occasions of sin,” which could very well include certain people, they said. I like to think of others, instead, as potential occasions of grace. They can challenge and delight us, wear off our rough edges, stretch us to be better, and bring us profound happiness.

We, in turn, can be occasions of grace for others. Grace flows between people when we accept, appreciate, and respect each other, want the best for others, and treat them with kindness and a generosity of spirit. We can truly be God’s presence for one another.

Notice synchronicity. Psychiatrist Carl Jung introduced the concept of synchronicity, defining it as the simultaneous occurrence of events with no cause-and-effect relationship that has meaning beyond mere coincidence. In other words, sometimes events that we don’t expect to happen together do, and we find meaning in that. Or as a popular saying goes: “Coincidence is the miracle that happens when God wishes to remain anonymous.”

Recognize the messages of grace. Moments of grace are communications—sometimes small, often whispered—from God. They come in many forms: randomly meeting someone, for instance, who becomes important in your life; learning of a perfect job opening; hearing a speaker address a problem you’re grappling with; receiving praise for a project you had doubts about; seeing a spectacular double rainbow. The messages may be “You’re on the right path” or “This will comfort you” or “Here’s an open window after a door closed.”

Grace prompts you to act when you’re shaky and uncertain, and gives you strength to do what you think you can’t. When your spirit is beaten down, grace enfolds and supports you.

Know that grace means you are loved. Grace is not something you can earn or force into your life. It’s God’s gift, freely given to you just because you exist.

The fact that God provides the many occurrences of grace that appear in your life—all the incidents that nurture your spiritual growth, as Peck said—confirms that you’re worthwhile, you’re significant, and you matter.

Take heart. When you’re actively present to what life is unfolding for you and you live with an awareness of grace, you transform your life in a way that moves you into a different dimension of being. Every moment becomes ripe with possibility. You still know hard times, difficulty, pain, and sorrow. But you’re able to face each day believing that God’s grace will support and guide you, and trusting that there will also be blessing, joy, awe, and wonder. You know that life itself is grace.

Excerpt taken from Finding Grace in the Everyday CareNote.

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