Grace did not come to me initially in the forms or the words of faith. I grew up in a church that often used the word but meant something else. Grace, like many religious words, had been leached of meaning so that I could no longer trust it.
I first experienced grace through music. At the Bible college I was attending, I was viewed as deviant. People would publicly pray for me and ask me if I needed exorcism. I felt harassed, disordered, confused. I began to climb out the window of my dorm room and sneak into the chapel, which contained a nine-foot Steinway grand piano. In a chapel dark bur for a small light by which to read music, I would sit for an hour or so each night and play Beethoven’s sonatas, Chopin’s preludes, and Schubert’s impromptus. My own fingers pressed a kind of tactile order onto the world. My mind was confused, the world was confused–but here I sensed a hidden world of beauty, grace, and wonder light as a cloud and startling as a beautiful wing.
Something similar happened in the world of nature. To get away from the crush ideas and people, I would take long walks in the pine forests splashed with dogwood. I followed the zigzag paths of dragonflies along the river, watched flocks of birds wheeling overhead, and picked apart logs to find the iridescent beetles inside. I like the sure, inevitable way of nature giving form and place to all living things. I saw evidence that the world contains grandeur, great goodness, and yes, traces of joy.
About the same time, I fell in love. It felt exactly like a fall, a head-over-heels tumble into a stat on unbearable lightness. The earth tilted on its axis. I was as unprepared for love as I had been for goodness and beauty. Suddenly, my heart seemed swollen, too large for my chest.
I was experiencing “common grace” to use the theologians’ term. It is a terrible thing, i found, to be grateful and have no one to thank, to be awed and have no one to worship. Gradually, very gradually, I came back to the cast-off faith of my child hood