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Grace Fills in the Gaps

Everybody Grieves

Grace Fills in the Gaps
Friday, August 6, 2021

To experience grace is one thing; to integrate it into your life is quite another.
Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

The following three paragraphs came to me clearly in a very short time while I was walking along the Pacific Ocean during my Lenten hermitage in 2012. I think they sum up why, for me, grace is the key to accepting all deaths—and experiencing all resurrections.

1. The goodness of God fills all the gaps of the universe, without discrimination or preference. God is the gratuity of absolutely everything. God is the “Goodness Glue,” the love that holds the dark and light of things together, the free energy that carries all death across the Great Divide and transmutes it into Life. Grace is what God does to keep all things God has made in love and alive—forever. Grace is not something God gives; grace is who God is. If we are to believe the primary witnesses, an unexplainable goodness is at work in the universe.

2. Death is not just our one physical dying, but it is going to the full depth, hitting the bottom, going the distance, beyond where I am in control, and always beyond where I am now. We all die eventually; we have no choice in the matter. But there are degrees of death before the final physical one. If we are honest, we acknowledge that we are dying throughout our life, and this is what we learn if we are attentive: grace is found at the depths and in the death of everything. After these smaller deaths, we know that the only “deadly sin” is to swim on the surface of things, where we never see, find, or desire God or love. This includes even the surface of religion, which might be the worst danger of all. Thus, we must not be afraid of falling, failing, going “down.”

3. When we go to the full depths and death, sometimes even the depths of our sin, we can always come out the other side—and the word for that is resurrection. Something or someone builds a bridge for us, recognizable only from the far side, that carries us willingly, or even partly unwilling, across. All that we hear from reputable and reliable sources (mystics, shamans, near-death visitors, and nearing-death experiences) indicates no one is more surprised and delighted than the traveler himself or herself. Something or someone seems to fill the tragic gap between death and life, but only at the point of no return. None of us crosses over by our own effort or merits, purity, or perfection. We are all—from pope, to president, to princess, to peasant—carried across by an uncreated and unearned grace. Worthiness is never the ticket, only deep desire, and the ticket is given in the desiring. The tomb is always finally empty. There are no exceptions to death, and there are no exceptions to grace. And I believe, with good evidence, that there are no exceptions to resurrection. Love truly is stronger than death.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018), 242–244.

Story from Our Community:
My husband of fifty-one years died in our bed as I lay there beside him. I hadn’t discovered his death until I woke up. I looked at him, my heart broken, and my future suddenly and permanently changed. In the depth of my grief, I hung onto the joy in my soul, and was able to accept what was real, and move forward. I wept many times over his death and the hole he left in my soul. However, my foundational joy of being alive, of being a part of this magnificent, mysterious world, and of remembering him as he had been, keeps me rejoicing in life and in my connection to the Great Spirit of the Universe. —Shirley R.

Image credit: Dennis Cowals, Upland Taiga (detail), 1973, photograph, Alaska, National Archives.
Image inspiration: Grief can feel like a wilderness—the vastness and depth of it overwhelming. We enter this wilderness to find the keys for healing, bit by bit, tree by tree, discovering and knowing our own grief spaces.
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