A Place Where Grace Flows

Today’s post is by Mary van Balen

Have you read something that stays with you, popping into mind out of nowhere, bringing insight to the moment? Recently, I read Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax by Michael N. McGregor. Lax was a great American poet and close friend of Thomas Merton. I took heart in Lax’s long search for the “right” place to live and write and his eventual realization that there was more than one. In his later years he made his home on the Greek island of Patmos, embracing poverty, free to write. If his work found its way to publication, good. But that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to be faithful and to write what was given to him to write, what was in his heart.

Not long after finishing the book, I read an interview of the author in “Bearings Online,” the Collegeville Institute blog. Answering a question about whether people should emulate Lax, McGregor said “No” and that his friend would never expect that. To live out of love was what mattered to him. No matter peoples’ circumstances or what they pursued, they should pursue it out of love. Then McGregor added, “For Lax, what was important was to put ourselves in a place where grace can flow, because once we do that, then things start happening.”

“To put ourselves in a place where grace can flow”—that phrase has taken residence in my heart. I think that’s what Lax was seeking while looking for the “right” place to write. And as he discovered, there is more than one.

Where are those places? Are they physical places or people we are with? “Both/and” I would say.

We might experience the flow of grace with family or in quiet morning hours while sitting alone with a cup of coffee and God, watching the sunrise. Maybe writing in a journal or practicing Lectio Divina. Perhaps our work opens us to grace. Volunteering. Painting. Immersion in nature. We know it when we find it. The important thing is to make sure we put ourselves there. Often.

I read another post, this time from the “On Being” blog, by Erin O. White. For her, the small church she attends is a place where grace flows. She describes it this way: “… church isn’t about order or quiet or even ritual so much as it is about showing up. For yourself, for God, and for the people around you who need to feel—just as you do—that the blessings and burdens of being a human are not theirs to bear alone.”

That’s what the flow of grace does. It binds people together, experiencing God dwelling within every person and in creation. Indeed, “things start happening.” It creates interior spaciousness. It enlivens. When we are open to that flow, everything is prayer.

But, there can be times when the usual places don’t work. Something may happen to turn a place where we once encountered grace into a place where that can no longer happen. Then it’s important to move on.

Sometimes an event or circumstance shakes us to the core, and we feel isolated. Grace seems stuck. In those moments, we might find additional people and places of grace: Counselors, support groups, people who have traveled a similar path, new prayer practices.

Some places of grace remain constants in our lives. Some change. Lax found them throughout his life, with friends, while traveling with a circus family, with poor fishermen on Patmos, and other people and places in between. Being attentive and open, we find them, too.

October 10, 2018 by Mary van Balen
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