There but by the grace of God…

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.

read to be read at


22 thoughts on “There but by the grace of God…

  1. paralaxvu says:

    I, as you, believe in an energy and life force beyond us. I am also an agnostic, however, and I don’t believe that the energy and life force are the Be All and End All. And I believe that not everything happens for a reason. I also believe, however, that not everything we do, we do by choice. We don’t always make choices when confronted; many times we simply react. I suppose you might say we choose to react, but that kinda takes the fun out of spontaneity, doesn’t it? 😉

    • skpadilla says:

      You are correct. Choice is not always really choice. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I’m eager to explore this theme further over the summer.

  2. Carrie says:

    I am an agnostic. i believe that there is many answers to that one question we all long to know. Life and death, and life after death. All I know is that I don’t know – and I will search out all answers from many different sources. I think there is lessons in that too and a purity in the admittance that I haven’t got all the answers. Great post and I hope your family has a great time this summer searching out those answers without the aid of electronic devices.

  3. Mayor Gia says:

    Hmm…interesting. Good luck with that exploration this summer – can’t wait to see what you find out about yourself and your beliefs

  4. Kerstin says:

    We started out camping adventures last year – and being outside by the campfire, completely dark and still, is really something very humbling and special.

  5. Vivian says:

    A statement that I despise is “you have to have blind faith” this is used when people cannot explain things. I question everything.

  6. chosenchaosblog says:

    I am a big believer of that phrase you hate people to use. Big. I too wish for wisdom as I make my choices in how to be. Be a parent, person, wife, woman.

    • skpadilla says:

      I guess there are reasons for some things…. but they aren’t necessarily good reasons. I am going to explore this further. Thank you for writing!

  7. I am with you. Summer is for being outside and being with your children. I wish you a fabulous summer.

  8. sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms says:

    Such an interesting and thoughtful piece. Your summer plans sound perfect. Ellen

  9. I hate that “everything happens for a reason” junk. My mom says it ALL the time. Of course everything happens for A reason but that doesn’t always mean its a GOOD reason. The reason your cat got hit by a car is because you let it roam the streets not because his death is serving some higher and greater purpose, you know? It happened for a reason but not a good one.

  10. we have strictly limited our son’s use of all electronic “things” while it is summer. the rule is, if you have to plug it in you shouldn’t use it until the sun goes down.

  11. I think stepping back in the summer for some soul searching is such a good plan. And I do love the way kid’s think at that 5ish age 🙂 Can’t wait to hear more from you!

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