Don't Block the Flow!The will of God will never take you where the grace of God cannot sustain you.
Grace can be gentle like water
its power hidden by the soft flowing
yet wearing away rock imperturbably.
No one watching can tell
how its cutting force is wielded.
The trick is not to block the flow,
with impediments silted by self-deprecation,
the accumulated muck
and rancid leaves of shame
to clog the way.
Grace flows only where there is an opening.
It pools at obstacles,
waits with infinite patience,
never trespasses where it
is not free to go.
Yet, a single sorrow healed
and Grace floods through in an instant.
- Linda Kavelin Popov, Sacred Moments - Daily Meditations on The Virtues.©1996
About the Author
As an inspiring international speaker on the cultivation of personal and corporate virtues, character education, women's development and community healing, psychotherapist and organizational development consultant Linda Kavelin Popov is a charter member of the National Think Tank on Character for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is on the Advisory Editorial Board for the Spirituality and Ethics segment on CTV National News in Canada. In 2001 she received a Women of Distinction Award from the YW/YMCA. Her work addresses strategies for transforming violence to virtues. She co-produced the television series Virtues: A Family Affair and has written the books and materials which form the core of The Virtues Project™.
Let each one of God's loved ones centre his attention on this: to be the Lord's mercy to man; to be the Lord's grace. Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. . . In this way, the light of divine guidance will shine forth, and the blessings of God will cradle all mankind. . . .
I had not, until recently, given any consideration to whether I might be blocking the flow of grace in my life. After reading Linda Popov's poem, Grace, I began to wonder. Linda likens the flow of grace (as I visualized it) to water flowing, as it does in small stream through the woods. Where there are accumulations of leaves and silt, the flow is dammed, and the water is stopped. It pools, waiting patiently for better conditions before it can proceed. Self-deprecation and shame, like leaves and silt, block the flow - are they part of my life? They destroy my self-esteem, and I must be aware when such thoughts accumulate, so that I don't come down too hard on myself. Now I understand that they may also block the blessings of the Spirit.
Confucius taught his disciples that the power of spiritual forces was everywhere in the Universe! "Invisible to the eyes and impalpable to the senses, it is inherent in all things, and nothing can escape its operation... Like the rush of mighty waters, the presence of unseen Powers is felt." At those times when I have relied upon that Power to be there for me, I have been reassured that it is. Through the kindness of others, a financial windfall or simply a sunny day when all I could muster was cloudy thoughts, grace has made its presence known to me.
And at those times when have I acted as a "functional atheist," trying to do it all myself, I have forgotten about the power and majesty of grace and its benefit in my life. Those are the times when it seems I am swimming against the current, working too hard just to get through the day, or beyond the current problem that has my attention.
Thus, I have learned to rely upon that power in the Universe, to trust in it when I am in trouble, and to do my best to remain worthy of being blessed by the grace of the Spirit. I have learned to relax into grace, and to be nurtured by it, to believe that if I need, that need will be fulfilled.
John J. McLain, S.J., is a chaplain with Special Forces at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. During a specially appointed tour of duty in Kosovo in November of 2000, he shared the following experience of traveling through this war-ravaged country, looking for opportunities to serve his God, and finding the gift of grace in the midst of so much pain and loss:
"We had climbed well up into the hills, deserted except for a few houses. And as we rounded a corner, I spied from my perch a boy walking home from school with his head down. He never even turned to look and see who was coming up behind him. He had sandy blond hair and as we slowed to pass him, his expression was dour. I pounded on the roof and the driver slowed to a crawl. I whistled to him and he looked up, just in time for me to toss him a fistful of sweets which he scooped from the air with his arms.
"His expression immediately went from disbelief to elation. He could not believe his good fortune. He waved and beamed a smile at me that I can still see. Pure, unadulterated gratitude. He shouted something I could barely hear and surely wouldn't have understood, but I suspect it meant "Thanks!" Later, as I prayed about the expression on that boy's face, I realized that he had taught me much about God's grace and our needed acceptance of that grace. Like us, he was going along, thinking that nothing new, different or good could possibly happen today. Then, out of nowhere, goodness rained down upon him - unlooked-for, unhoped-for, unearnable, just a gift, freely given, beyond price and beyond the means of the recipient. The only thing he could do was accept it for what it was, be grateful and move on. That is what we need to do: be stunned by the explosion of God into our everyday life. Accept the gift of grace, use it for the purpose for which it was given and be grateful for it."
I have also learned that the best way to be worthy of those blessings is to be an instrument of grace in the lives of others. It is incumbent upon me, in my daily life, to practice the virtues of kindness and understanding with everyone. Having the blessing of grace in my life is simply not enough. It is necessary to share it with others in order to help it to multiply. It is necessary for me to be aware of situations where I can be of service to others in ways that, rather than diminishing me, would work for the good of my fellow-man. It takes but a moment to listen to my inner guide, and to try to determine where grace may be leading me, like the flow of a stream, into an opportunity to return some of what I have received.
I am generally free of worry when I rely upon the power of grace in my life. No matter what else may be happening, Spirit is always present, watching over me, leading me, holding my hand. Grace is waiting for the path to be clear, that the flow may come forth.