Be Playful

Posts Tagged ‘grace

In the economics of play, the currency is grace.

Photo by geeknerd99.

‘Grace finds goodness
In everything’


‘Grace is everywhere, like lenses that go unnoticed because you are looking through them.’
Philip Yancey

There are two kinds of economy: the economy of what is due, and the economy of grace.

Much of life is spent in the economy of what is due – at work we receive the pay that is due to us, shopping we pay the price that is due to the shopkeeper.  In this economy of merit, we get the good things and the bad things that we deserve.

Some of life is spent in the economy of grace.  The mother who loves us unconditionally, a letter of apology after a bitter argument, a stranger who shares his umbrella whilst we stand for a bus in the city rain, an evening sunset of breath-taking beauty.  In the economy of grace we receive beautiful, elegant and surprising gifts, whether or not we deserve them.

Signposts to Grace

Photo by nicksarebi.

I want to learn with you how to dance through the world with grace.    As much as I search, I still spend my life learning about grace, journeying through life trying to find her.

I would like to share some signposts I’ve discovered on the road to grace.

Grace means giving more to the world than you take from the world

Photo by notsogoodphotography.

‘The cardinal property of the gift is that whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again.’
Lewis Hyde

We have been given life. Let us choose to live life fully, being an exemplar of all that is good and true and beautiful, sharing the inner life of our soul through our outer life in the world.

We have been given talents and skills.  Let us share the fruits of these with the world – with those who are close that we love, and with the stranger we have never met.

We have been given time.  Let us be generous with our time, giving our full attention to the things we care about rather than shards of attention to many things, most of which we don’t care much for.

As the songwriter Martyn Joseph sings:

Are you down to your last drop of love?
Even so you should give it away.
Let it sail with your dreams to the sun,
And return to you laden with promises.

Grace transforms who we are at the core of our being

‘Gifts are a companion to transformation. A gift may be the actual agent of change, the bearer of new life.  Gifts carry an identity with them, and to accept the gift amounts to incorporating the new identity.  It is as if such a gift passes through the body and leaves us altered.  The gift is not merely the witness of guardian to new life, but the creator.’
Lewis Hyde

Grace is scary because it means change.  To accept a true gift is to accept a new way of being in the world.  If we are feeling devoid of life in our soul, grace fills us with new life and hope.  Hyde writes:

‘Lifelessness leaves the soul when a gift comes towards us.’

In my younger years, I suffered from depression.  I’d lock myself in my room, hiding from the world as a paradoxical cry for attention.  One day my cousin came to visit and I refused to let her in.  My brother, seething with anger at my apparent callousness, broke down my door.  My cousin came into the room and wrapped her arms around me.  At the moment, my brother’s anger and my cousin’s presence were a gift of grace, reviving my depressed and lifeless soul with life and hope.

Giving at life’s events of transformation

Gifts are given at life’s liminal times – christenings, weddings, birthdays, graduations.

Wedding gifts, for example, are the first shared property between a newly-wed couple.  They exemplify a new way of being where all things are shared – material things and concerns of the soul – with another person.  Wedding gifts are an outward sign of a new inner bond.

Grace creates communities

Photo by Hamed Masoumi.

A simple way to understand the meaning of a gift is to contrast gifts with commodities.  Commodities are integral to economy of what is due.  We pay a stranger for them, and then we own them, they belong to us.

Gifts, on the other hand, are integral to the economy of grace.  In giving a gift, we create a relationship with the person we are giving to.  A gift is never fully owned by ourselves, but always contains the memory and soul of the person who gave it to us.  This is particularly true when the gift was nurtured or created by the person giving it.

There are two ways to create community.  One is to choose to exclude certain people.  The other is to create community through the giving of gifts.

Grace breaks down boundaries

Photo by aussiegall.

Gifts break down barriers between people.  This is why we give a bottle of wine or flowers when we are visiting someone for dinner – the gift breaks down the boundary created by our absence.

True grace – the grace of forgiveness – is the most powerful gift of all.  The gift of forgiveness can break down emotional strongholds and fortresses that have stood strong for generations.  Forgiveness is not only a gift to the person being forgiven, but to the person doing the forgiving.  It relieves the tension and bitterness of resentment created by refusing to forgive.

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things


Grace seeks out the empty-handed

Photo by malias.

In market economics, to make money you’ve got to have money.    In the economy of grace, to receive a gift, you must be empty-handed.  Grace seeks out the broken and the lost, in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, the ‘the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on’.

As Lewis Hyde puts it:

‘The gift moves from plenty to emptiness.  It seeks the barren, the arid, the stuck, and the poor.’

Kester Brewin transforms this radical economics into a call to action:

‘The market always seeks a profit, but the gift seeks out the empty-handed.  So let us become empty-handed, happy to receive gifts and pass them on into mystery, refusing to hold onto them for our own blessing.’

Grace arrives when you least expect her

Because the gift seeks out the empty-handed, grace always arrives when we least expect her – sometimes when we know that we need her most, sometimes when we’re sure that we’re doing fine-thank-you-very-much and our lives are ruptured by the change and beauty that a gift brings.

The words of Martyn Joseph resonate again:

Are you down to your last ray of hope?
Well they say that’s the moment things turn around.
Don’t you give up the fight, you can cope,
You can be so amazingingly strong.

Grace seeks out the artist who is empty of inspiration, the hungry who hope each day for a meal.

Living this ’empty-handed’ life means not having everything planned out.  Trying to control life anticipates that there will be no grace.  An empty-handed life of giving and grace is a spontaneous life, a life of humble love.

A life of grace means not knowing all the answers.

Grace looks for the good in other people

To be grace-full is to be an eternal optimist; it is to know that everyone has the potential to create wonderful and beautiful things, and to look for (link to digging for gold) and nurture this potential in all people.

‘Grace,’ wrote U2’s lead singer Bono, ‘finds beauty in everything’


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