“Grace” as a word describing human connection with a Higher Power may be at risk of losing its positive connotations. The site, http://www.merriam-webster.com, lists nearly a dozen meanings for grace. Excluding definitions not commonly used in modern U.S. English, grace may be summarized as: 1. undeserved Divine assistance given to humans for redemption from sins, 2. approval or favor (with respect to someone more powerful), 3. a beautiful or pleasing trait or action. The first definition, the theological concept of grace, stirs many negative emotions within me as I have struggled against exclusion, stigmatization, and low self-confidence for much of my life. I reject a patriarchal god who sits in the same pews with small-hearted, intolerant people who regard humanity as wretched or undeserving. The second definition of grace, conjuring up images of working hard to stay in your boss’s “good graces”, does not inspire positive feelings either. The third definition is typically used in social or leisurely contexts, often connected with talent or privilege. Yet, phrases such as “social graces” or “carrying oneself with grace” hint at a humanized concept of grace free from the rigid, doctrinaire baggage of theological grace. Perhaps, human grace can be taken to encompass the kindheartedness and generosity expressed by any man or woman, not the exclusive domain of privileged elites. Otherwise, it may be all for the best if secular society relegates “grace” to the compost bucket of archaic terms. In the dung heap of obsolete words, “grace” would keep company with “atonement” and “sanctification”, words which no longer find application in any profession or pursuit outside of theology.
My heart desires that grace would live on, but a new understanding of grace may be needed. The rarefied, top-down theological notion of grace, in its mechanical sterility, could pass away with neither good nor ill effect upon society. However, the everyday goodwill of human beings, think “Random Acts of Kindness”, can renew and redefine grace as the Divine Spirit living through Humanity. During my years of wandering under a fog of depression, the warmth and kindness of close friends, with our shared passion for social justice, gave me an awareness of the Divine in human form. The violet-blue Rocky Mountain sky above the snow-cloaked tooth-edged mountains expanded my concrete experiences with human grace into a tentative hope of grace within the enormity of Nature.
Indeed, since my childhood, the beauty found in the great diversity of plants and animals led me to trust the grace of Nature. Nature’s diversity-loving grace, made most apparent in human love and goodwill, has seemed to triumph over the stingy, petty, theological grace embraced by churches which exclude “undesirables”. Over the past several years, in my new life as female, I increasingly experience the Divine Feminine as the embodiment of grace in both Nature and Humanity. Yet, grace can be the sum of all gentle, kind, goodwill in any man or woman of any religious persuasion. Moreover, a person need not embrace any deity nor higher power to embody the enormous compassion and love at the heart of Human grace.
In my experience, grace is not a mere descriptive concept, but rather an embodiment of the Divine Feminine, whether She actually exists or not. The hope against hope in a transcendent, all-embracing compassion I attempt to define in the attached poem: