I never count my blessings by counting the miseries of others. Frequently, neighborly people with good Sunday school attendance do this. Like the time a woman told of her grandchild’s health issues and another woman’s response was, “I thank God that all my children are healthy.” I think she meant well, but like all Southern ladies, kind tones are often duplicitous—so who can tell? Or those who say, “Smile up! Look how good you have it compared to the rest of the world!” I’ve never been able to do that.
Grace is never comparative. Material wealth or physical health is no greater sign of Grace, than, say, having red hair or being born straight. Grace just comes to us naked, pure as the sight of mountains after rain where the sun shines equally on the hateful heart and the sassy mouth and the saint and the prostitute. Grace can only be received with hands outstretched in wonder. If Grace is just an idea that you cannot imagine, think another thought and she is there.
Grace! I call you down! I see you hovering outside my window—you funny trickster, you fickle mistress of God! I call you to this very room, you that draw all men’s hearts out of their chests when minds deliver’d from melancholia! Fly not and sigh not, for I will not let thee go until thou smilest upon me! Now, Grace! Aid me in this hour to say praises with mirth!
Blessed be underwear straight from the dryer on a cold day! Blessed be lonely mountain walks upon the autumn’s crimson carpet! Blessed be the parapets of those mountains, the blinking cell phone towers! And blessed be flying buttresses across earth holding up the houses of God! And blessed be the repairmen most of all!
Blessed be the body! Blessed be my body! Blessed be my flab! Blessed be my teeth! Blessed be the bum knee and the crackling joints! Blessed be the dry skin hiding behind the ear! Blessed be the selfies! Blessed be the overly-self-conscious selfies! Blessed are the selfies in their dim lighting and in their angles awkward! Blessed be the nails that grow too quickly! And blessed be the lost nail clippers found most of all!
Blessed be Jessye Norman singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”! Blessed be the orchestra tuning to the lonely oboe! Blessed be E Flat and D Sharp for Concertos have been written in thee! Blessed be the diminished fifth and the devil’s own interval! Blessed be the voice singing off pitch with utter abandonment to joy! Blessed be Richard and Richard and Gustav and Ludwig and Pyotr and Uncle Ralph and “Beau Soir”! And blessed be Johann Sebastian most of all!
Blessed be failure! Blessed be pain! Blessed be the soul that gives up all to find it again! Blessed be the loss! Blessed be the praying and not praying! Blessed be the not getting and the not spending for powers are wasted not! Blessed be boredom! Blessed be ennui! Blessed be nothingness! Blessed be words, rhythm and rhyme! And, most of all, blessed be this soul of mine!
Grace stay with me until morning, ‘til dawn. Illumine, let us, all the peoples withdrawn, please.