Moving on: Grace—Again!

15 Jan

It’s a new year and with the new year I discovered that my blog site had collapsed. Six months of posts were lost. But it is time to begin again: ‘move on’, as they say. So I thought to share one post that I had saved, on this very subject. It’s a message we all need to hear again and again. In old fashioned language: ‘grace abounds’.

We often hear phrases like ‘Get over it’ or the need to ‘move on’, and sometimes this is what people hope for when they speak of ‘needing closure’. Behind these statements often there is a great deal of pain, perhaps grief or regret.

I remember being deeply moved by a statement of Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher of the 19th century, from a source I can’t now remember. He remarked that ‘before you can move from the spot you have to move at the spot’. This means simply that before we can ‘move on’, we have to change in some way. In essence, we have to be prepared to move on. That’s actually a choice and a challenge.

I was reminded of this challenge recently when I read M. L. Stedman’s novel, The Light Between Oceans (Vintage Books, 2012). It’s a remarkable story of a couple living almost a century ago on an extremely remote island, where the man is the lighthouse keeper. One day, they quite literally find a baby, washed ashore in a boat with a dead adult as well. They keep the child, as the woman, who has been unable to have children of her own, is convinced it is an answer to her prayers.

The mother of this child, wife to the dead man, eventually gets her child back. All the happens in between is the story of the novel.

Right at the end, as the child’s mother is desperately trying to understand the actions of those who took her child, she is overwhelmed by bitterness and the desire for revenge. She will have the couple imprisoned, if not hanged!

Then she recalls the words of her late husband, Frank. (I’m actually quite moved by this. If only we could be like this Frank!) He was an Austrian man who had suffered much racial abuse, especially during the First World War, but had somehow never developed any bitterness. Hannah recalls her husband’s outlook and it is his words that bring her to a new perspective: grace.

            ‘”… a memory of a conversation with Frank floated into her awareness. ‘But how? How can you just get over these things, darling?’ she had asked him. ‘You’ve had so much strife but you’re always happy. How do you do it?’

‘I choose to,’ he said. ‘I can leave myself to rot in the past, spend my time hating people for what happened, like my father did, or I can forgive and forget.’

‘But it’s not that easy.’

He smiled that Frank smile. ‘Oh, but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things.’ He laughed, pretending to wipe sweat from his brow. ‘I would have to make a list, a very, very long list and make sure I hated the people on it to the right amount. That I did a very proper job of hating, too: very Teutonic! No,’ his voice became sober, ‘we always have a choice, all of us.’ (The Light Between Oceans, pages 342-3.)

When I read this, I was reminded of U2’s wonderful song, Grace.

Grace

She takes the blame

She covers the shame

Removes the stain

It could be her name

 

Grace

It’s a name for a girl

It’s also a thought that

Changed the world

 

And when she walks on the street

You can hear the strings

Grace finds goodness

In everything

 

Grace

She’s got the walk

Not on a wrapper on chalk

She’s got the time to talk

 

She travels outside

Of karma, karma

She travels outside

Of karma

 

When she goes to work

You can hear the strings

Grace finds beauty

In everything

 

Grace

She carries a world on her hips

No champagne flute for her lips

No twirls or skips

Between her fingertips

 

She carries a pearl

In perfect condition

What once was hers

What once was friction

What left a mark

No longer stains

 

Because grace makes beauty

Out of ugly things

 

Grace finds beauty

In everything

 

Grace finds goodness

In everything

 

These words, from novel and song, remind me simply of the choice God makes, infinitely, to grace us all with life and the opportunity to live creatively, redemptively—for others, and indeed for ourselves. As Stedman says, ‘we always have a choice, all of us.’

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