One of the key reasons I am not a Christian is that I wholeheartedly reject the belief that humanity is unable to know Good without the roadmap provided by God's grace. It's a concept that is frankly insulting to most non-Western cultures, most of whom have managed to comprise an ethics system without the input of the volcanic god of the Jews.
And yet, the whole concept of the Grace of God is deeply embedded in Western culture, so much so that Westerners often refer to it casually, regardless of their professed faith. And as a cultural element, it's something we often yearn for, dancing from one faith to another seeking an equivalent. Spiritual followers, yogis, and ecstatic dancers may point to a moment in their practice where they felt Grace - where they sensed the love and regard of some universal entity shining upon them.
It's worth noting perhaps that grace - defined as the unmerited favor of God - and compassion - the unmerited empathy of others - have some similarity, and both might equally well be described as unmerited love, with the distinction being the source. On my One Little Word journey for this year, I have come across a definition that I think speaks to the heart of my word, Kindness: kindness is being nicer to others than they deserve. Again, unmerited love.
It was grace that pulled me out of my first experience with depression, in the form of a Sunday School picture taped to the fridge at the home of my mother's hairdresser friend. A black and white line drawing of a little boy sitting at a table, with a toy sailboat before him, the youngest child of the house had scattered some crayon lines here and there across the page, leaving stark the message printed at the bottom of the page: "I know I'm somebody, 'cuz God doesn't make junk." I was an unbelieving teen, and those words still wormed their way into my blackest thoughts.
Perhaps this yearning for God's grace speaks to the popularity of Avalokiteshvara, or Quan Yin. As the Buddha or Awakened One of Compassion, she doles out unmerited love to our ego-attached selves and holds space for our Buddha nature long before we ourselves recognize it.
No answers here, just essais at useful thoughts. Share yours?