“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Every now and then a thought will spring forward in your mind, elbowing the grocery lists and work worries aside, to stand front and center in your consciousness, demanding attention. Today was the day for *this* phrase above to assert itself in the cluttered warehouse that is my brain.
For the past few days, I have been troubled by the idea that I just can’t seem to capture the “spirit” of Christmas this year… financial worries, family concerns, economic and political insanity swirling around like wind-driven smoke, all kept me from really “feeling” the holiday. I just couldn’t shake the rational, work-a-day mindset long enough for the child-like wonder of our saviors birth to take root.
A busy day today, errands, gifts to wrap and people to see, all kept my mind occupied and my body moving until finally, unexpected and unbidden, I had what one might call an epiphany, if one were given to the belief (as I am) that God intervenes in the lives of men. It felt as if a hard shell had crumbled from my body, leaving a raw and vulnerable new skin exposed to a world where hard callouses are the dress code, and vulnerability means almost certain loss.
What caused this? What momentous event wrenched my reality into a contorted circus-mirror version of itself? Nothing, nothing at all. One moment I was there, comfortably surrounded by my familiar worries, and the next I was here, with only my altered view to mark the passing.
No words were spoken to me, or by me. No incident or accident, just a new view from one blink of the eye to the next. A view by the way that appears ever more profound as I contemplate the phrase I quoted above.
That phrase had always called to my mind a homeless man, his life ruined by addictions and disorder, spiraling downward, although he was actually only a distressingly few steps further down a trail I myself could have easily trod.
The phrase also reminds us of our wonderful luck to have been born in this nation, in a land where respect for the humanity of an individual has reached it’s highest point yet, and while both of these are good lessons to derive from the wisdom expressed in that phrase, today I realized, that those lessons are only a shadow, a precursor of the brilliant, immutable truth that today, for me, flipped a switch in my…for lack of a better word, in my soul.
You see, I imagined, in that moment, that I was saying that phrase, repeating it over and over in my mind and my heart, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” while I stood transfixed, motionless, staring up at the face of my savior as he died on the cross. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Today I understood fully what it means to have someone “take my place.” And today, I realized that the “spirit” of Christmas isn’t something I can capture, or something I must feel; it is something for us to understand, and humbly accept. By the grace of God, I hope to never forget that again. Merry Christmas.