As I look back at crises within our family over the 2019-2020 season, I shudder at the sheer amount and intensity of events. Two serious car wrecks, a shoulder surgery, torn ankle ligaments (at Christmas!), the passing of a 90-year-old parent, a major pet crisis, a concussion, loss of income and two company reorganizations. 

Douse that fire with a few gallons of gas from a pandemic, political division, an attack at the Capitol, financial chaos, racial tension, and religious strife, and it can be unbearable. We’ve been regular visitors to the ER of life.

You’ve been there, too…maybe you ARE there now. So more than ever we all need some grace. Grace is a healing balm that can be applied in many forms. When we offer it, in small or large measure, we bring hope and relief to fragile, broken lives.  

Some years ago, after dealing with the fallout of a different kind of crisis, I ended the phone call feeling depressed and overwhelmed. I left my university office and headed to the campus coffee shop on my way home “Hi, Dr. D! How may I help you?” the student-attendant asked warmly, unaware of the crises management strategy occupying my mind. “Just a coffee. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” she replied with a wry smile. “It’s your lucky day.” Really? You’re kidding me. Please…no more ‘luck’ like I’m having today. 

I smiled gently thinking, “Dear child, you have no idea how wrong you are.” 

“No…really. It’s perfect timing. The student who was just here said, ‘I’m buying coffee for the next person. Just tell them to have a great day and enjoy the coffee.’” 

Wow. I came looking for a little caffeine; instead I got an espresso Venti cup of GRACE. More than what I expected. It was such a small kindness, probably more than I deserved. But it felt so wonderful. That’s the nature of grace – both honoring and humbling, all at the same time.

Now I was really smiling, and she was beaming, getting a kick out of my response. I just stood there, wonder and irony filling my soul. I’d been ambushed by grace. She was clearly pleased to be the agent of this seemingly insignificant transaction. Her joy filled the room, like the aroma of fresh coffee. 

As I headed to my car grace arrived again – a kind of  double-shot. The university is not very far from Lake Michigan, and a light, gentle snow was falling. Lake effect snow. It can arrive in a moment – unpredictable, sometimes powerful, this time “grace-full.” 

Large, floating flakes calmly drifted toward the earth. Not a sound was heard as I walked to my car along the forested path that led to the parking lot. I stood alone and in awe. Quiet, still, peaceful, restful, beautiful. 

And there, in the quiet, I heard the Voice…that still, small Voice. No one heard it but me. Because it was just for me.  The Voice compelled me to see a reality that was greater than my troubling circumstances. Grace was resting upon me like the steady, tender snow, blanketing my sorrow, worry and fear with joy, peace and hope.

That’s what grace does. That’s its job. And it performs it so incredibly well, and at no charge. No tit-for-tat expectations. No, “Remember, you owe me one.” Just a gift to be accepted, treasured and enjoyed – just when you need it the most. And today it landed in my cup of coffee, and arrived on a few flakes of snow.

Likely we are all in the ER of life today, hobbling around on the crutches of uncertainty, anger, fear, loneliness and grief. So we all need grace. 

But that’s ok. Unlike a new vaccine there’s plenty of grace to go around…there’s no shortage of supply…no waiting in line…easily delivered in just the right dosage.

The good news is we only need a little. And we only need to give a little. 

Because a little grace can go a long way.

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