Graceful. Grace-filled. What’s the difference? The first seems mainly external – coordinated limbs and agile feet come quickly to mind. Yet being graceful can also apply to how we deal with complex or aggravated situations: can we diffuse the tension gracefully? This is where the two words meet for me at this moment.
As usual, when someone throws a theological term at me, if I haven’t already done so, I go searching for what the word meant in Greek or Hebrew as there are almost always surprises in the translation. My favorite this time around is: “Chanan is a Hebrew word often translated as “grace” but is Hebraicly understood as a ‘camp’. The camp [the home for the nomadic tribes of Israel] . . . is a place of beauty, love, warmth and comfort. “
In the Greek (as well as the Hebrew), we come back to the more familiar meanings “charis khar’-ece — graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude):–acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace(- ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank(-s, -worthy).”
So I take the “divine influence upon the heart” and the “camp” back to where I started. As I walk through life, it is not unusual for me to trip, occasionally spectacularly in ways that remind me of the squirrels I’ve seen running down the phone wire, then frantically grabbing for the wire as they flip upside-down inadvertently. I almost always have bruises on my legs from where I bumped into things without ever noticing, seeing these bruises is perhaps most useful as a reminder of the frequency in which I say thoughtless words or insult someone without any awareness.
The camp – the community where I live most closely and which is my spiritual home – and God’s grace, are what hold me upright, moving lightly along that phone wire. Without that, I am grasping, or on the ground dizzy and vulnerable.