from the summer/spring 2016 issue of Reflections magazine.
To read this article in PDF format Releasing Grace
by Mary Carolyn Watson
The night before Easter was a busy one for my family this year. Our next door neighbors hosted a party which included an egg hunt for all the children. My two little girls took part, eagerly bounding across the lawn with their baskets in tow looking for brightly-colored eggs. They both gathered quite a few before their favorite part of the evening began – the opening of all the eggs.
My husband and I watched from several feet away as our children split open the plastic eggs, dumping the contents out onto the grass. We had noticed that some of the eggs jingled a bit while being collected. I had never seen Easter eggs filled with anything but candy, the occasional sticker, or raisins and banana chips during my own childhood (my parents were health food nuts). Did these jingling eggs contain actual money? I’m embarrassed to admit that the prospect of getting money, even just coins, from our neighbor’s egg hunt was kind of thrilling to us.
The jingling eggs did, in fact, contain coins (four quarters a piece) and what’s more a number of the eggs collected by our girls contained one dollar and five dollar bills! Somehow my children managed to pick up most of the “money eggs” which was a huge disappointment to them because money isn’t sweet and delicious like candy. They cast their pile of bills and coins aside, like unwanted vegetables, and ran off with fistfuls of jelly beans and chocolate eggs, intent on eating as many as possible before parental restrictions were enforced.
My husband and I actually let them go because we were so stunned and excited about the neglected pile of money. We counted it and it totaled $23! Immediately my mind started considering the possibilities of what we could buy with this unexpected bonus. It wasn’t the amount that delighted us, it was the fact that it had come to us completely unanticipated and unearned. We try to be careful with how we spend our earned money, but this free gift seemed like an opportunity to be frivolous – to spend money on something fun and carefree.
I think it is a natural human response to want to grasp tightly to any gift that we are given. That was certainly my initial inclination with our Easter egg windfall. I quickly picked up all the coins and bills from the yard and stuffed them in my pockets before anyone noticed. But as I walked home that night, my pants jingling slightly with every step, I started to feel a slight nagging in the pit of my stomach. Was a couple of cups of Starbucks or a new toy for my children the best way to spend this unexpected gift? Did we really need those things, and couldn’t we just buy them with our earned money if we did?
I was wrestling with these thoughts when my phone rang with a call from our realtor. We were selling our house for an impending move, and the option period for some potential buyers was about to end the next day. We needed the buyers to sign off on the deal. It had been almost a week after the inspection, and we hadn’t heard anything. I’d been fretting for days, hoping desperately that the contract wouldn’t fall through. The prospect of having to put our house back on the market depressed me. Keeping a house “show ready” while living with two small children is no easy task.
We talked with our realtor several times over the next hour to settle some last minute negotiations. In between phone calls I frosted a coconut cake for Easter brunch, and my husband bathed our two chocolate-smeared children and put them to bed. Finally the call came; the buyers had accepted our offer. Our house was sold, really and truly. I felt an overwhelming wave of gratitude and relief wash over me. This was God’s grace, and a much more consequential moment than the money eggs had been.
It is easier to be thankful in the “big” grace moments than in the small ones, I think, but such big moments can also remind us to be thankful in all grace-filled moments. That larger moment of grace helped give me some perspective about what we should do with the money from the egg hunt.
The next morning at church on Easter Sunday, my husband (who happened to be ushering) gave me a knowing wink when I placed a pile of bills and coins into the offering plate. Symbolically we were giving the gift we had received back to God. It was a small offering, to be sure, but it still felt good to be passing it on to help enrich a faith community that has meant so much to us during our time here in San Antonio.
I’ve heard God’s grace described as rain falling from the sky, and I like the image of grace as water flowing freely. I think God’s grace flows into our life, washing us with its blessing, before moving on to cleanse the hearts or quench the thirst of others. Grace becomes a part of our life, but it does not belong to us. Like water running over outstretched hands, we cannot hold onto grace permanently.
We can only let it pool momentarily in our cupped palms before spreading our fingers and allowing it to slip gently between them. Because God gives so freely to us we are called to give freely to others in return.
Mary Carolyn Watson is a writer and stay-at-home mother who lives in San Antonio with her husband and two daughters, Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
For further reflection
When you experience a windfall – of money, time, or gifts – how are you inclined to react?
Who in your life at this moment is in need of God’s grace? How might you facilitate that?
Is there an anxiety in your life just now where you could use a little grace? Whom could you ask to pray with you for that situation?
To read the entire spring/summer 2016 issue or articles from it, go here.