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Extraordinary Ordinary Grace

A puzzle, emerging from two separate pieces, begins on my refrigerator. I’m always looking for ideas that lead to more understanding of myself and the world around me. When I find something intriguing, I save it on my refrigerator door. One quote, in particular, has been there a long time, not because I fully understood it, but because I hoped one day it would become clear.

Enter the first puzzle piece:

Not long after the death of my son, Matthew, I ran across this quote by Greek playwright, Aeschylus: “He who learns must suffer. 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.”

There were ideas within this quote that spoke to my broken heart . . . unforgettable pain; despair; wisdom; suffering and learning. But, one idea I had yet to embrace . . . “the awful grace of God.” You see, back then when pain was everywhere, the words, Grace and God, no longer fit easily together. And, what is “awful grace” anyway? I had no energy to deal with it all. But I knew, somehow, this quote was important, so I carefully copied it and placed it on the refrigerator door.

I needed hope back then. So, I began a quest – looking for mercy, unconditional love, forgiveness and other extraordinary elements of grace to show themselves within the ordinary . . . where loss and death, like joy and beauty are undeniable parts of our common human condition.

Enter the second puzzle piece:

Just months ago, in an unfamiliar room, I randomly turned to look toward a small bookcase. At eye level was William Krueger’s “Ordinary Grace,” a mystery centered within ordinary lives where extraordinary brokenness and loss are met with inspired, human grace.

Of course I read it . . . many sections more than once. Near its end, Nathan, a father whose daughter has been murdered, shares this quote with his son: “. . . he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

The puzzle’s picture:

I don’t believe in coincidences; I do believe in gracious gifts that enter our lives during ordinary times. My connecting puzzle pieces, occurring 15 years apart, have two things in common: a 2,000+ year-old quote, and the death of a beloved child. The picture they create for me is neither the face of my own son nor of Nathan’s daughter. Instead the pieces fall into a hopeful montage of years-long, gathered wisdom and compassionate forgiveness.

Now, rather than dreadful, I accept “the awful grace of God” as a center of awe-inspiring wisdom. And God . . . well, we’re still talking about forgiveness. Matt would approve.




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