The Violence of Grace…???

Posted: May 31, 2017 in World On The Edge


We human beings often become chained to our usual ways even though some of our usual ways are not good for us, and may even be very destructive to ourselves or other people.

We know we need change. But as life itself shows us, there is no change without action. An object, a person, or a fictional character, will continue in its existing state unless it is changed by some external force.

The external force may come through another person or persons. It may come through a physical event. It may even be something that threatens our very life. Still, without some external force, the tendency of any person is to do nothing and remain unchanged–the same as a vase left for years on a table, collecting dust and cobwebs until some force comes to move it or dust it.

We know that God can take action to change us, but only if we allow it. To receive grace is an interaction between us and God.

When things are going well, we thank God for His Grace. In more difficult times, we pray for God’s grace, thinking of it as a feel-good, feather duster; something to cleanse us gently and peacefully. But when we are not easily cleansed–which is often the case–God’s grace may not be peaceful and sublime. In fact….

Sometimes grace is violent… sometimes God wants His life in you so much that it’s going to come in ways that mean you’re going to suffer. Not because He wills it but because He permits it. It says in Hebrews “I will shake you.” And I will shake all created things until all that is left is what is uncreated, what is unshakeable. Put simply — ‘Sometimes I’m going to let you suffer. I’m going to shake you free of all those things that you’ve put in place of my grace, in place of my life in you, until all that’s left is my life in you. Until all you can cling to… is me.’ – Mark Hart

The above quote is from speaker, Mark Hart, to a Catholic Life Teen group. I am struck by its weight. That grace is often uncomfortable, even violent, is the underpinning of much of my fiction. My characters  change. They either “re-write” their lives in sometimes painful ways by allowing grace to find them and mold them–or else, they turn from it as too painful, too hard. Accepting God’s grace has a human price tag, but also, a divine reward.

Without grace, Paul Dunaway in Mary’s Mountain would not have changed his indulgent ways because he enjoyed money, sex, and power too much. But it costs him.

In A Hunger in the Heart, the question of whether Coleman Puttman Bridgeman III can bring himself to forgive his mother–the woman he believes killed his father–will cost him.

In Birds of a Feather, ten very different characters struggle with the same outpour of grace. Some accept it, some do not. But it costs each one of them.

The notion that grace is healing omits the fact that before it heals, it cuts with the sword Christ said he would bring. –Flannery O’Connor

Actual Grace is an external force of God, an intervention into a misguided, but comfortable situation. More often than not, grace is uncomfortable. So yes, grace can heal us, but  the process of our accepting it in order to change, may be difficult, painful, even violent. And suffering may be its cost.

Will we pay it or not? Will we see that a loving God, like a loving parent, is always present? And if need be, will we trust enough to allow Him to change us?

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