(Lead me Lord,) by grace.
Though the life of someone who recognizes their calling to be a pilgrim each day is a life ordered by a number of spiritual disciplines (prayer, study, worship, service, and holy listening to name only a few), it is nevertheless true that everything good which is worth having comes fundamentally by means of grace. Our disciplines can (and do) help us, but all of the most beautiful and transforming things come as gifts.
And there is more. Knowing that, in the end, we rely on grace rather than merit allows us to put away self-justification and the harsh judgements of others which naturally follow from self-justification. We are set free to serve others and love others without the need to judge them because grace has taught us that God loves and serves us without undo consideration of our merit, therefore we learn to do unto others what God in God’s grace has done for us.
Finally, grace is the great antidote to despair. The thing about a world built on a meritocratic system is that in the end in all depends on us. Given that, apart from God, we are a mess . . . such a system necessarily ends in despair because we cannot finally fix the insoluble troubles which plague us by sheer grit and determination. Accepting grace is to accept that we need help with the great work of redemption and we need not despair at our slow and uneven progress because God can and does act in ways that are not reducible to a closed natural system which can only be described as logical and predictable. God keeps surprising us with life where death should prevail, abundance when we have reduced our expectations to those of scarcity.
Grace is God’s great tool for molding and shaping us into the sorts of creatures who are, in the end, children and if children of God then also heirs along with Jesus Christ. Our calling is to not only worship and reverence Christ, but to become like him. The New Testament speaks of this often:
[Ephesians 2:4-9 NRSV] God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast.
[Gal. 4:4-7 NRSV] But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.
The theological concept of theosis is too much to address in detail in a simple daily devotion, but knowing that we are called to be like Christ would be overwhelming if we were to attempt it apart from grace. We have important contributions to make to our growth as disciples, but in the end we trust more in God’s grace than we trust in our own merit.
Daily Collect: God of amazing grace: You have not waited for us to get our act together before loving. Your prevenient grace is the source of all that is good and right and Christlike within us. Teach us by grace to be your joyful and obedient children. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.