Grace and Memoir

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing

Ephesians 2:8
King Tide at Seal Rock, Oregon (photo by Richard Gylgayton)

Grace exposes all our gifts, both those we hold and those we have lost. Love enters our life through grace. The certainty of grace is gentle and subtle, and explaining it might destroy it, like locking a butterfly in a tin box.

I can only try through example: my brother and my dog are in the house with me, sharing my life in Oregon. They both appeared into my life unbidden. The giver of those two gifts is much greater than the “I” that is aware of the gift. In fact, the temporary identity of my ego is so busy with unimportant things most of the time that it is generally unaware of the love and grace that the giver constantly provides.

Perhaps that is why when I am cognizant of grace because I have taken the time to be mindful, my heart opens, and I feel a concentrated emotion that I also cannot describe. The inability to explain it is not because I do not have a talent for creating sentences. It is not that more words would help, it’s that all of them are inadequate.

The explanatory impossibility exists because the gifts are too considerable and generous for me to understand in the way that we normally define perception, like other inexpressible things: a sunrise, music, the laughter of children, and friends who have appeared and joined me on my travels.

When Saint Paul says “this is not your own doing” he is speaking of the giver: the gift of God. I know that there are those who may read that and shake their heads in dissatisfaction with the proper noun. We live in an empirical and materialistic age, where most of what occurs is described through pragmatic, rigid terms. I don’t deny that, nor do I reject it.

Yaquina Head, Newport, Oregon (photo by Richard Gylgayton)

I carry both the pragmatic and metaphysical viewpoints of the world in my consciousness. But as I have grown older and realize that most of my life has already been lived, that sensation of the gift of grace has existed consistently and I have to accept that there is something undefinable that provides all the love that has sustained my life.

My own experience tells me that the higher power cares for me. The realization is not attached to any specific belief or faith. The tradition in which I was raised is as human as anything else, thus it is filled with error, confusion and the projection of power, both at the institutional and personal level. The traditional Western churches lost their way long ago. Today we see some of them (far too few) realizing that and attempting to change. What I am describing has extraordinarily little to do with religion as we commonly understand it. The appreciation of grace is devoid of dogma, authority, belief, rituals, or tribal relationships.

I am not making a case for anything specific because what I speak of is indefinable—except for the simple fact that when I take time to reflect, I can see moments when there was something significant at work that could not be measured. It was, and is, simply there, especially when the events of my life were arduous and filled with sadness and stress. At those times I feel beneficence from outside of my small self.

When my heart fills with wonder, when I surrender to the actuality of grace transforming me in small and detailed ways in a world that appears to be out of control—that is when I feel the human condition most vitally.

I am learning my own past all over again. I am examining the years I have already experienced and rediscovering the moments of grace of which I was unaware. In so doing I am more sensitive to its frequent presence as I live through the latter stages of my life. The harsh world we have created obscures the simple miracles that actually sustain us. Yet they are there and when the veil falls we can perceive them with gratitude and read our own story.

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