“But by the grace of God I am what I am . . .” – 1 Corinthians 15:10
If you were to walk in the master bedroom of our home one of the first things you might notice is a pair of photos, one just above the other. The larger of the two is a professionally photographed portrait of my beautiful bride in her wedding dress. Beneath it is a snapshot by the wedding photographer of the two of us exiting the church just after our wedding ceremony, arm-in-arm looking at each other laughing. It is my favorite of all our wedding pictures, maybe my favorite picture in the whole world.
Glancing at those pictures, as I often do, from almost fifty-two years ago causes me to reflect on the life we started together back then with no clue where we were headed, except we had made a commitment to take this wild journey together. As with most couples, I suppose, our journey has been typical of what wedding vows try to prepare us for, for better or for worse, times of financial struggles and times of prosperity, times of sickness and times of health, yet to love and cherish always.
While we have experienced all those to-be-expected ups and downs from time to time, our life together has been extraordinary, in spite of occasional misfortunes or blunders we have made – mostly that I have made. In more recent years as I reflect on our journey it has occurred to me how often those misfortunes and blunders have been set aright, not by our own actions, but by God’s grace. Why, the mere fact that we ever met in the first place and fell in love, could that have been anything other than God’s grace?
Grace, I think, is something that happens when we least expect it, or not paying attention, and maybe don’t even realize it for what it is until years later. Anne Lamott, in her best-selling book Traveling Mercies, describes it this way: “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” Frederick Buechner calls it “a crazy, Holy Grace . . . Crazy because whoever could have predicted it? . . . And holy because these moments of grace come ultimately from farther away than Oz and deeper down than doom, holy because they heal and hallow.” The one thing I know for sure is that “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect,” which I am reminded of every time I glance at that picture on our bedroom wall.