Walking Our Faith: Grace found in a glass of wine
Walking Our Faith
Our Lenten abstinence will end at the end of next week, but I’m not so sure that I want to give up what I’ve given up.
In past years, I’ve given up things for Lent and mostly they seemed like silly efforts more inclined to dieting than religious observance. I’ve also given things away, in fact that’s how my winter scarf ministry started a year ago. That was a good thing to come from my Lenten observance.
Nevertheless, I decided in March to give up my nightly intake of red wine and my nightly consumption of political talk shows. Both had become such a large part of my weeknights. At dinnertime, I’d have the first glass of wine and listen to the first of my four-talk-show lineup. After dinner, it was knitting and another glass of wine and two more talk shows.
It became worrisome when the second glass was followed by another “half,” which became three. Never drunk or headachy the next morning, I was the frog in a slowly warming pan, developing a familiar tolerance. For this reason, I thought the absence of both would be a welcome break. But to be honest, I didn’t think I’d be successful.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about grace. It’s one of those words we hear a lot but because it’s so familiar I don’t think we consider its meaning. Yet, it’s one of the most powerful words in our religious vocabulary.
I am speaking of God’s grace. The unmerited favor God bestows upon each of us. To some, it’s the equivalent of winning the lottery. And yes sometimes good things happen for no reason, and we can be grateful and thank God and that’s good.
But the unmerited favor I’m thinking of as we enter into Holy Week and walk the well-worn path to the cross, is nothing less than God’s love, which we could never earn. It is given so freely, not once, but every moment of every day no matter who we are or what we do, good or bad. Most perplexing, God loves the people we think he shouldn’t.
And that’s the problem. Most of the time what we notice sure doesn’t look like grace. We don’t like the grace that disappoints us, that answers our prayers not in the way we want, but in the way that is for our ultimate good. We want to win the lottery every time.
In our nightly phone call, Mom told me of a woman who had asked her to pray for her brother who was in the painful last stages of lung cancer. Mom prayed with the woman but later found out the man had died the very next day. Mom was devastated and felt her prayer had gone unheard and that she had let the woman down.
Mom spent the next two days seeking an answer from God. What she received wasn’t entirely satisfactory. She felt God told her that sometimes healing comes as an end to suffering. This is one of those answers which are most difficult to understand, especially when the answer means the loss of someone we love.
Our walk of faith is often incomprehensible. Often that is the case when we notice, or don’t, God’s presence in the world. Why would the Creator of the Universe choose to be born of poor parents, live a tradesman’s life, choose his apostles from the ill-literate working class, heal the destitute, feed the poor, save the adulterer from stoning and the tax collector from corruption? We want our heroes to be winners, not losers.
He was supposed to come as a king. He should have been dressed in the finest robes and spent his time in palaces with those who were smart and beautiful and rich. Instead he spent his few years with the least of us, allowed himself to be beaten, humiliated, and ultimately to suffer the most horrific death. Then he left us. As we look around, have things improved?
Grace is one of God’s great mysteries. Why are we given what we could never earn? Why are our prayers sometimes answered in ways that only make sense years from now or never in our time on Earth?
I was mostly successful in abstaining from red wine and political talk. And I discovered I like myself better with the absence of both. So, they’ll take a different place in my life going forward — special occasions rather than a nightly ritual.
But this discovery wasn’t the greatest gift. It was God’s grace. I was certain I wouldn’t abstain from wine and political talking heads for seven weeks. I’ve tried in years past and failed within days. God showed me not only that I could, but my life would be happier as a result. Perhaps it’s a small thing. But noticing God’s grace is another step closer to him.
Suzanne lives in Breckenridge. Her books can be found at Next Page Books and Nosh on Main Street, Frisco. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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