When we try to pray, God often beats us to the punch and prays in us, offering us gifts of quiet assurance, challenge, and consolations that appear to come out of nowhere. God recently gifted me with an image of saving grace that was born of God’s good Spirit touching my imagination and creating in my memory what I liked to call a “place with the Lord.”
I pray within sight of Cimabue’s crucifix, before which St. Francis received his call to rebuild the church. Nothing quite so dramatic came my way that morning, just an intimate sense of the crucified arms of Jesus reaching out to embrace me and hold me close and safe.
Later that day I listened to a Methodist pastor tell me about the sudden death of his nineteen-year-old nephew and his agreeing to conduct the funeral service despite the deep sadness and acute anger he felt about the death.
I had no words of comfort for him, and worked hard to resist the cheap temptation to say something to anesthetize his sorrow and make him feel better. All I had to offer was God’s gift to me in in that morning’s prayer, so I invited him also to spend time grieving in the arms of the crucified one, the one who knows all our heartache and in whose presence is the only sure path to healing.
Perhaps the clearest sign of grace is a willingness to give it away and discovering, quite miraculously, that we lose nothing in the process.