38. Grace, The Gift Unasked For

Sometimes we’re given an unexpected unearned unasked-for gift that is God’s Grace. For me, more than once it has come in the darkest hour, to rescue me when I could not help myself. Sometimes I’ve been blessed by Grace thru unknowing angels. Like the cold bright almost-spring day in Minneapolis when a young couple, strangers, passed me on the sidewalk They were striding along with their arms around each other’s waist, obviously in love. It was a time when my life was broken. I was just-divorced, lost and confused, and the loneliest I had ever been in my life. The hopes I’d had for that love, and for the career I had sacrificed for it, both now were nothing but cold ashes.

As the two young people swung along down the city sidewalk, they  both glanced at me at the same moment, and smiled. Their small gift lifted my heart profoundly, and that moment completely transcended the deep sorrow I was carrying.

My heart lifted like a small sparrow into flight, just for that moment, and I was changed. Somehow, I knew that life had not forsaken me entirely. There would be another day for me, and although I can’t say how, I felt it to the marrow of my bones.

They had no way of knowing it, but they had lifted me out of my deep sense of hopelessness with this simple openhearted act of spontaneously sharing with me, just for a moment in time, the love they felt for each other.

In the recession of the 1980s, I went through a time when my life was financially, physically, and spiritually at rock-bottom. I was on my own, out of work or working temporary part-time jobs, struggling just to survive. I lived on oatmeal, boiled cabbage, and brown rice, I was in danger of losing my apartment for overdue rent, and I wore my coat indoors because the cost of heat was a luxury I simply could not afford. I had been desperate for more than a year and I felt helpless, alone, and devastated. I couldn’t see any way out, no matter how hard I tried.

Tears stung my face as I walked home from the bus stop on a bitter-cold November day, after applying for another job that I knew I would not get. It would have been a steady job in a doctor’s office, a new field, a new start – too good to be true, but I didn’t have any experience. I was thinking about my life, and about Life “with a capital L” and I was unable to hide the tears of hopelessness tracking down my face. A car drove by. I glanced up and saw its bumper sticker that said “Expect Miracles.”

There are lots of those bumper stickers around now, but at the time, I had never seen that phrase before. It struck me like a bolt of lightning, and in an instant I knew that this simple message was intended for me, exactly at this moment in time, when I needed it most. It was not “by chance” and somehow I knew it. I was already at the bottom of my hope, and I just let go of it all. I felt a strange moment of peace, and a sense of release. I decided  to trust God for whatever came. A few days later, I did get that job, I began a new career, and my life would never be the same.

Coincidence? The book “A Course in Miracles” says “There are no accidents, and no coincidences.”  I had been given a little glimmer of Grace, through a stranger who never even saw me. He never knew that a mundane thing like his license plate had been used by God to bless someone crying in the dark, and to promise a beginning that would change my life.

Grace is the gift unasked for, and even undared to hope for. Grace is the often undeserved, but deeply needed and longed-for reprieve. Grace is the unexplainable moving of God to bless us in spite of ourselves. Grace is when God cheats a little, to help us pass the test, lifts us out of the quicksand we have blundered into, and sets us on a higher ground where we can have a better place to begin again.

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