Standing in Need of Grace

Meditations in Motion

To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace.- Brennan Manning

We visited some old friends yesterday. It was a wonderful day. We cooked and ate lunch, sat by their pool, drank wine, and reminisced about our exploits from a time when we all had fewer wrinkles and pounds.

These friends grow their own grapes to make wine, and they gave us a tour of their small vineyard. We tasted the grapes, some green, some red and some purple. The grapes looked perfect, almost luminous, from a distance, but when you got up close, you could see the imperfections. Some had a beak-full of flesh removed by robins, some were discolored by rot, some, overripe, had split their skins. None were perfect.

Meditations in Motion

As we viewed the grapes, butterflies were flitting nearby, little brightly colored chips of color struggling against the wind. It is amazing to think that some of these delicate-looking butterflies will migrate thousands of miles to overwinter in large colonies in a warmer climate than the one found in southeast Pennsylvania. Not only monarch butterflies like the one pictured above, but smaller species like the Pipevine Swallowtail, the Red Admiral, and the Question Mark make a similar remarkable trip.

As I looked at the butterflies, it seemed as if each one of them was tattered in some way. Some obviously had a close encounter with some kind of predator, escaping with their lives by leaving a wedge of their wing behind. Some of them appeared to be frayed by the elements, with fringes marking the edges of each wing. One determined Sulphur whose wings were too damaged to function was, incredibly, walking south, as if he could cover the thousand-plus miles one tiny butterfly step at a time.

My hostess is a master gardener. Her flower beds and vegetable gardens are inventive, diverse and gorgeous. It is September, however, and as I looked around I saw that the phlox had mildew, appearing as if they had been dusted with white powder, the asters were yellowed, and the leaves on the rose bushes looked like lace from Japanese beetles skeletonizing them.

Is everything blemished this time of year? Is nothing whole and perfect? I have been feeling even more “less than perfect” than usual, due to a running injury that has me sidelined.

Meditations in Motion

This spring everything looked so new, fresh and immaculate. We are hopeful in the spring. We plant seeds in the soil and hope. We watch birds returning from the tropics, building nests and sitting on eggs, and hope. We listen to tree frogs calling for mates on warm spring evenings and hope. So much hope each spring.

In the springtime of our lives, we begin careers, we marry, we have children and we hope. If we didn’t have hope, no one would ever get married or have children. There is no such thing as the “perfect time” to do these things. There is only the “good-enough” time. When we are young everything looks newborn and salted, full of promise and possibility.

 

Meditations in Motion
This diagram of a heat pump is an illustration of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Drawn in Inkscape by Ilmari Karonen. [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

But the Second Law of Thermodynamics works against us. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that when there are changes in the form of energy in a system (like the universe) or when matter is free to move around, the disorder in that system will increase. Things will fall apart and break down. Plants will be infested, butterfly wings will be tattered, and runners will become injured.

Unfortunately, there is no escaping this strict law. It is not called the Second Suggestion of Thermodynamics for a very good reason. Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, a British physicist, laments this fact in the following quote “if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.” Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley call the law “perhaps the most pessimistic and amoral formulation in all human thought.

So what are we humans, who live in a universe ruled by Second Law of Thermodynamics, to do? Rent our clothes and wail in despair?

Meditations in Motion

Luckily, there is also grace. Evidence of grace is everywhere. Hope is not in vain. Marriages do last, babies do grow up, and Monarchs do travel, however improbably, to Mexico.

If you are lucky to live long enough, you will be broken, probably several times. The Second Law of Thermodynamics and human history agree on this point. But. There is no need to stay broken. Grace exists, even if you don’t believe in it. That’s the beauty of the system. Grace exists for the sinner and the saint, for the believer and the non-believer, for you and your neighbor, even the neighbor who plays loud music at 2:00 in the morning and parks junky cars on his front lawn.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics may be trying to break you down, but grace is there to make you whole. It is completely unmerited and utterly free. It was a gift to you on your birthday. Grace means that our future is not necessarily determined by our past.

What is the proper response to such a glorious gift? Gratitude. We show our gratitude for grace by living a life of compassion and mercy. Oh, we won’t be perfect. There will be plenty of times when compassion is called for, and we won’t deliver. We forget. Our hearts harden. We are human. Luckily, there is grace: we get another chance. Look for your chances today. What can you do to show your gratitude for the best gift you will ever receive?

 

I am linking up with Jessica and Amy at Live Life Well, Anna Nuttall for her Bloggers Link Up, Susan B Mead for Dancing With Jesus, Crystal Twaddell for Fresh Market Friday, My Little Tablespoon and Laughing My Abs Off for their Fab Finds Friday, A Glimpse of our Life for Scripture and a Snapshot, Peabea Photography for Sunday Scripture Blessings, A Jar Full of Marigolds for Selah, Anita Ojeda for Inspire Me Monday, Char at Trekking Thru, Abounding Grace for Gracefull Tuesday, Shank You Very Much for Dream Team, Eclectic Evelyn for her Words on Wednesday, Shelbee on the Edge for Spread the Kindness, Meghan Weyerbacher for Tea and Word, and Spiritual Sundays for Welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

47 comments

  1. My garden is definitely subject to that second law these days: disorganized and flattened by dry conditions! And even so, it continues to produce red tomatoes!
    I want to keep being fruitful as well, even though the edges of my wings are looking a little tattered these days!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have definitely had more struggles than normal this summer. I still keep my gratitude journal every night. I will admit, there really were some days it was hard to find something to be grateful, but in the end, there was always something. And I have so many friends so much worse off. 😦

    The other day I said to my husband you know what’s good about bad luck? He, ever the pessimist, said it can get worse? And I replied no, it turns around. It always does.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think if you look closely in the spring, you can find plenty of imperfections. I have a tendency to look around me (from afar) and think I’m the only person or thing that’s damaged. But I know that up close, after lifting the veil, we’re all in the same boat.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Laurie, I love this. The word grace and feeling of grace keep popping up in my life more than ever before and here it is again. You are a wonderful writer and I have been enriched and inspired by reading your blogs. Thank you.

    “Grace Got You” by Mercy Me is one of my favorite songs right now. Have you heard it?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a deep, illuminating, brave post — and wow, does it resonate with me. Between my own aging and watching my beloved big sisters become diminished and dependent due to neurological illnesses — like you, I am feeling tattered these days. And yet, as you point out, there is grace, undeserved and unaccountable, and butterflies do the impossible every year, and when I can summon some detachment from my ego I can even kind of understand that becoming tattered is necessary, a part of the process. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, we develop threadbare patches on our way to becoming real. Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Just like that butterfly, I want to keep going even when tattered a bit around the edges. Yes, I have been broken in life, but I am so grateful for God’s grace which brings restoration and renewed life. And this morning, this post has caused me to pause in gratitude for all He has done. Have a blessed Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I brought some cut flowers inside and when looking closely, they had imperfections. Love your analogy of the different things in nature and ourselves that come out pure and innocent and then life happens. Thank God, he is there and there is Grace for the imperfect times in our lives. Looking back, even when not realizing it, God was there for me and I didn’t even know or say thank you in some of the bad times. It is now my mission to say thank you to him each day. Enjoyed reading. Thanks for sharing at Sunday Scripture Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, no matter how much we hope otherwise, we are always subject to the Law that wears us down and breaks us. So thankful that God’s grace can make our brokenness into beauty! What a lovely illustration you’ve shared!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Many are surprised when I say that Triple Negative Breast Cancer was my biggest blessing in spite of the many blemishes it has left on me – but it has been my biggest blessing. I learned to love faster and harder, to face life fearlessly (most of the time), to praise Him enthusiastically, to speak kindness even to perfect strangers….I learned so much and gained so much! Brokenness is fertile ground – let’s grow!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I can definitely relate to “feeling tattered,” Laurie. Somehow as we grow older, and our children grow older, problems seem to multiply! But then so do graces. 🙂 I love this: “Gratitude. We show our gratitude for grace by living a life of compassion and mercy.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love the images you created here. God always seems to work in seasons, doesn’t He? Sometimes that frustrates me when all I see are the blemishes, the rot, the mildew. But His ways are always perfect. What is rotting and dies, comes to new life again. So grateful for His grace in every season of my life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just read your wonderful post about seasons. We must all be thinking along the same lines! Yes, death and new life are God’s way, which, of course, is perfect.

      Like

  12. Such a beautiful post! You always speak to my heart, Laurie! My post this week is about teaching children about grace through out parenting. Grace is such a beautiful word!

    Thanks for linking up @LiveLifeWell!

    Blessings,

    Amy

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Can I just say you are really a wonderful writer and I hope to able to convey my thoughts like that. I thought of God’s grace and how imperfect I have been and yet I am loved in his eyes. I am not defined by past mistakes; I can move forward and I would like to add the word mercy along with Grace. I really loved this post; it made my day. Thank you Laurie

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m definitely all for being ‘good enough’ rather than perfect. Perfect doesn’t give you anything to aim for. But feeling good enough, accepting who we are, and with goals to aim for… that’s my kinda perfect. Beautiful opening quote 🙂 Thank you for joining us for the #dreamteam xx

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love your line: “Grace means that our future is not necessarily determined by our past.” This is what I am focused on as I look back on past mistakes and move forward the best way I can. My favorite movie is “Groundhog Day” because every day is an opportunity to start over. We are not prisoners of the past. Thank you for your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh, I love Groundhog Day too. One of my favorites! We all make mistakes. Luckily, grace means that we can move past those mistakes with a clean slate. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

      Like

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