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.
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.
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.
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?
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.