Divine Providence or Simply, Grace
Next month marks a year at my job. After a series of jobs that never lasted more than a few months, I decided to take a different direction. When I look back on last year and reflect; I’m amazed I’ve come this far.
I learned the real meaning of divine providence and grace last year. The true meaning, the practical one, where I had tested all theories and then was blessed with factual results not merely hypotheses.
At the exact time I lost my current job, a woman came into my life and offered to help me find another one. Her job before retirement had been to help people find jobs and she had a lot of wonderful ideas for me. That eventually, speaking as an employed person, worked.
It would take some time, however, and I had none. I had no money coming in, rent to pay, bills to pay, groceries to buy and another mouth to feed, my cat.
There is something about divine providence or grace that appears to resemble magic. If there were such a thing. But where magic is only believable in fairytales, grace lives in the real world. It is there when we least expect it. When we have long since given up and decided that life is less fair and much harder than we already assumed.
It is the five-dollar bill on the sidewalk when the cupboard is bare. Sometimes grace is something small like the parking space that opens up in a full parking lot when the rain is coming down in sheets.
For me, it was a season of grace although it couldn’t have lasted more than a of couple months. I lost my job and fell into despondency. I was denied unemployment and felt the despair that we all feel when we are without money or resources and have no idea how we will get by.
We’re only able to capture it for moments,
It has no real definition,
no lines to distinguish its existence
It is only when we say, yes
and recognize it
in all its many forms
that it is.
It comes when we least expect it,
often when we are not at our best.
At times in disguise,
when we’ve given up hope.
This is Grace in all its glory,
when we’ve stopped believing
in the power of the universe.
And the world is no longer
what we wished it to be.
It is suddenly there
shedding its scrim.
there are angels
If only we’re willing to
open our eyes.
Grace is the moment
when we have given ourselves back.
The flower growing through a crack in the sidewalk,
the star shimmer of another night,
the knowledge that songbirds dream,
practicing their songs for a new day.
the beauty of possibility.
Grace is the unexpected
and also everywhere.
I went down to get the mail. I was sitting at the kitchen table with my head in my hands, stereotypical hopelessness, completely disheartened by my situation. There are people who live this every day. How is that possible? Where will I get money for groceries? I opened a card from a friend hoping only for a smile. The card read: “You fed my soul, let me feed you.” Slipped inside the card was a Safeway gift card. It took me a moment to see beyond the tears. I had brought her a bag of books and she had sent me the answer to an unspoken prayer.
Sarah would bring me bags of food and fresh vegetables from her garden. On more than one occasion, she asked me to meet her at the gas station and then filled my car up with gas. Grace comes in all shapes and sizes. When I lamented that I didn’t know how I would ever pay her back, she told me that some day there would be someone who would need my help. And I would help them and not expect anything in return, except that they helped the next person in need. Paying it forward.
Sarah told me about a friend who had told her when she was hungry to make potato soup. Do you have water? Do you have potatoes? That’s all it takes. Someone else asked to borrow her car and she warned him about the bald tires. When he returned Sarah’s car, it had four brand new tires.
Grace is the friend who sits by your bedside with a cold compress to soothe your burning forehead. The friend who has been there beside you since you were 10, in many different roles, all of them loving and without judgment. It is meeting the man you didn’t know you had always dreamed of while walking in the rain without an umbrella.
Grace in nature is everywhere and unending. Can you look anywhere and not see it? Even now, the pink buds blooming on the cherry blossom trees, the yellow-bright daffodils perky and proud. That a seed becomes a flower, that is grace. How does nature know what is expected every spring? And how is it possible that we forget from year to year about nature’s bounty? How can we not celebrate its gifts?
I have a friend, the same one who sent the Safeway card, who calls moments of beauty and unwarranted and surprising joy ‘bursts.’
There’s another word I love, ‘flahoolick’ Flahoolick is an Irish word meaning openhanded, generous, expansive and much more. It also means ‘princely exuberance.’ When grace enters your life, when you are blessed with divine providence, the experience is flahoolick. Flahoolick can be finding water in the desert. Once it snowed in March in California. I drove my snow-covered car to my boyfriend’s house and after a raucous snowball fight with his kids, we built a miniature snowman that lived in the freezer for months as a reminder of our unexpected day.
Red-tailed hawks have always been a symbol to me of my higher power. I look for them and see them everywhere, on power lines by the side of the freeway, soaring above me. They always materialize when I’m in a bad place and am in need of redemption. While I was unemployed and working towards finding a new career, I stopped seeing them. It made me realize that I had very little faith left, having felt so beaten down by life’s circumstances.
I went to a job interview and as I was going into the building I saw three red-tail hawks, circling and soaring and then diving. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Such freedom.
When I left the interview as I was driving home I saw another red-tail hawk. And then two more before I reached home, one that flew practically in front of my car, as if to say, “Do you see me?”
It was then that I realized that all those months I hadn’t seen a red-tail hawk, they had been there. Just as thought I hadn’t felt the presence of my higher power by seeing a hawk, he was there for me too.
Divine providence or its counterpart grace is not always something tangible, it may be an emotion or simply the faith that there is something better for us out there, if we pay attention and refuse to give up.