Thursday, November 17, 2011

Diving grace

One of my colleagues from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music Task Groups posted about a typo in a document to be released in a few months: instead of "divine grace," the words "diving grace" ended up on the page. She posed a question about how we have experienced "diving grace" in our lives.

As a child, I was drawn to water and to swimming, but was afraid of the high diving board at the local swimming pool. I remember being ten years old, terrified to take the first dive. I'd mastered the lower board, and now my swimming teacher, classmates, and my dad were pressuring me. I think that there was a bribe involved, some trivial material thing that I'd wanted. The bribe proved to me how utterly misunderstood I felt; this hesitation and fear were bigger than a fleeting reward.

I remember thinking that just diving would be so much easier than standing at the end of the board, watching the formation of clouds pass by, studying the wavy tree branches across the street, feeling colder and colder until even wrapping my arms around my body did not help one bit.

Just as it's quicker and easier to jump into a pool whose water is too cold than lower yourself an inch at a time till you're waist-deep and shivering, it would have been easier to extend my arms, tuck my head, and dive from that high board. But instead I backed up, started down the ladder, and was nearly at the bottom where I'd see all those disappointed faces when I looked straight up at the sky, back to the blue of the pool floor. Not comprehending why, I knew that I wanted to be right inside the blue colors and the lapping sounds of the others in that pool. I didn't care if I got water up my nose or whether I landed on my belly, because all of it was an invitation to something I couldn't miss.

Holding out our arms to God's grace is like taking that dive. We can go slowly, slipping one leg in at a time, or we can look right into that water and just go for it. The water will be there when we land. God's grace will be there when we extend our arms. We don't need to be good enough, deserving enough, skilled enough, or smart enough to complete the perfect dive, nor to receive grace. It's simply there. How we embrace it, how much we desire it, and how we finally take that joyful jump that scares us out of our wits is up to us.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Serving a hidden flame

"Saints, like revolutionaries, walk headlong into the cool, dry wind, are always serving a hidden flame, are terrifying because of what they do not need."
--from Stephen Dunn's poem, "Saints."

Terrifying because of what they do not need! Our culture not only suggests, but insists that we need so many things, many more than we ever knew. What did the saints know that we refuse to listen to?