I saw a bumper sticker today that said “Grace happens”. It touched my heart and made me smile. It is so good to stay with those little moments. They are what make or break a day. Because even on the worst days, graced moments happen. A friend of mine, Joyce, calls them ‘God winks’. They are simple, little encounters that move us, make us sigh, speak yes to us, bring inner goodness out.
The bumper sticker was unexpected. That particular car happened to be in front of me, and I happened to see it. I told my son Thomas to look at it too. We were on our way to a piano lesson. He was talking about his classes at school and how a boy was teasing him about a girl. I was turning off the radio so I could hear him better. Everyday stuff. Then this bumper sticker pops up. Grace happens. It was like God popping into our conversation to say hi. What a wonderful surprise. Thomas and I began to talk about the bumper sticker and what it meant to us. It morphed into a conversation about the death penalty somehow, but that is a blog for another day. My point is God surprised us, and we happily noticed.
Pope Francis says we have a God of surprises. He says, “…God is the God of surprises, that God is always new; He never denies himself, never says that what He said was wrong, never, but He always surprises us.” Do we open our hearts to them?
I think when we do, we start to see them all the time. We look for them. We hope for them. We want to make them for others. I bet that’s what the driver of that bumper sticker-ed car thought. I bet she (I say she because the words “Grace happens” were surrounded by pink flowers, but I don’t want to be accused of sexism…she could be a he.) saw God surprises in her life and wanted to join in the fun.
It’s contagious once your heart can feel the joy in God’s surprises. Maybe it’s an unsolicited hug, a pleasant comment on Facebook or a smile between strangers. They can be in nature, like geese flying under pink-tinged clouds or a single rose blooming despite the chill in the air. Sometimes they are big surprises. Sometimes they are little. Like the other day, my older son Nolan said he enjoyed the banter going on between his dad and I in the car more than anything else about that outing (God must hang out in cars a lot.). I was pleasantly surprised how much he enjoyed our company. It made all of us feel good, and it carried us through the day.
I’m sure I miss a lot of surprises. I let my mind get full of what I need to do, what isn’t getting done. I let myself get distracted. Instead, I need to be present to the possibility of God’s surprises. Notice them. It’s the good stuff of life that brings joy and peace.
Do you ever feel like you have too many expectations? Maybe there are too many balls in the air? Forgot to take a juggling class? Sometimes either we expect too much from ourselves, or others expect too much from us. It can be maddening at times. Too much to do and not enough time to do it. Sometimes it feels like we can’t give anything our complete attention.
Now, I’m not talking about shirking responsibility. It is good to work hard and see the fruit of your effort. A little stress is healthy. It keeps you moving forward. I’m talking about a weight of stuff. A to-do list gone crazy. Like one more thing might put you over the edge. We’ve all been there, right? What are we to do with all these expectations?
Learn from St. Paul! Paul said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective, ” (I Corinthians 15:10). I always think of Popeye when I read this. “I yam what I yam!” But Paul speaks such truth. We can only be who we are. Thanks be to God! That is all God wants from us. God only wants us to be God’s beloved children. That is it. If we get that, the rest feels easier. Knowing this gives us the strength to do the rest of it. God’s only expectation of us is to love God. He even gives us the ability to do it. Allow God’s love in, and God will fulfill all of your expectations.
So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, keep this song in mind!