There but by the grace of God go I.
Myth suggests that an exceedingly devout and compassionate Christian named John Bradford was the first person to utter this well known phrase, but evidence is lacking. Mr. Bradford lived in the early 1500s in England. By all accounts he led a kind and unselfish life in which he urged people to join the Church of England. This didn’t go over too well with some folks, and they burned him alive at age 45 for his evangelism.
Regardless of his actual words, and despite having been evangelized to tears before, I find the statement compelling. My interpretation is that were it not for God’s mercy, one would suffer a fate unwelcome and uncomfortable than one’s current situation (uncomfortable or not).
But is it true? Is there any meaning behind the words?
I hate it when people say “everything happens for a reason”. It’s a completely ridiculous statement that people hide behind or stumble upon when things don’t go the way in which they were expected to go. We all make choices when confronted with unexpected situations, unwelcome or not. Those choices are what subsequently brings whatever happens next to our lives, which in turn impact the lives of our families, friends and community.
Choices. Not mercy. Or perhaps by the combination thereof.
While a confirmed nonreligious, my faith remains strong in an energy and lifeforce beyond our own… one in which our loved ones move to a space and spirit that is intangible, yet absolutely real, when they pass on.
That said, my comfort level with the less-than-seen places and spaces in my heart is shaky. This summer I would like to explore those spaces in an off-line sort of way, a non-technological, non-Wikepedia, non-Google kind of approach that involves silence, hot springs and woods.
On the way to get his hair cut, my son-who-is-not-quite-five years old asked me if our car has GPS (it does not). Later that same day, he mentioned that he likes “phones with keyboards”. While unrelated to choice and consequence, his observations of the high tech, fast-paced world in which we live is interesting. I don’t think it’s either bad or good, but a meaningful indication of the way in which our children process the world around them.
More of our conversation:
“Mama, what does Dada do for work?”
“He helps teach people how to conserve energy. Do you know what means?”
Head shakes no.
“He helps people learn how to not waste electricity, and how to take care of power and light, which are important resources for the world.”
“Oh. Well that’s pretty cool, but I wish he could do that work AND sell phones with keyboards to people. That would be REALLY cool.”
Hmmmm. I don’t consider our family heavy users of equipment or entertainment that requires electricity, but we do use our share of power for DVD playing and Internet use.
As summer approaches, my expectations include less indoor time wasting electricity and far more time spent outdoors playing soccer with the boys and experiencing the tension of setting up a tent with one’s spouse that is required as part of establishing camp. And I will love every minute.
You may hear from me less as the days grow longer.
I wish for mercy and wisdom as I make my choices, and I will share some of them with you along the way.
Because perhaps there but by the Grace of God we go.