An Ordinary Grace

ordinary-grace-200Ordinary Grace is a novel that begins:

“It was a summer in which death, in visitation, assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder. You might think I remember that summer as tragic and I do but not completely so. My father used to quote Greek playwright Aeschylus. ‘He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.’

In the end maybe that’s what the summer was about. I didn’t understand such things then. I’ve come four decades since but I’m not sure that even now I fully understand. I still spend a lot of time thinking about the events of that summer. About the terrible price of wisdom. The awful grace of God.”

It is a touching novel of loss and growing insight. It includes the “awful grace of God” and the cry for an “ordinary grace.”  The title comes from a moment of exasperation. The family is under stresses real or imagined, and guests come over to the childhood narrator’s home for lunch after church. The father who is the pastor of the church is called upon to say grace before the meal:

“My father composed himself. He always spent a moment insolence before he prayed. His blessings tend to be comprehensive and include not just he immediate food on the table  but reminds of all we had to be thankful for and very often a reminder of those who were not as fortunate as we.

In that silence while my father’s head filled with the words he deemed proper, my mother spoke. She said, “For God’s sake, Nathan, can’t you, just once, offer an ordinary grace?”

The respectful silence in the room now filled with uncertainty, even menace. His father asked, “Is there anyone else who would care to offer the blessing?” No one spoke until a small clear voice replied, “I’ll say grace.”

That voice came from the narrator’s younger – and – stuttering brother, Jake.

Jake said, “Heavenly F-F-F.” And he stopped.

O God, I prayed, just kill me now.

“Heavenly Father, for the blessings of this food and these friends and our families, we thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word…. I looked at my brother with near reverence and thought to myself, Thank you God.”

“A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it”… and yet, that is the essence of grace; it is memorable because grace is always extraordinary by its very nature.

As you consider the comprehensiveness of life, as we are prone, here is a little word to consider an ordinary grace.

Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have been introduced to an ordinary grace and an awful grace, and by whom we have been “seized by the power of a great affection.”

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About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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