I always enjoyed Terry Hershey’s segments on Hallmark Channel’s “New Morning.” He spoke of beauty and the need for space simply to take in the wonders of life. He spoke of the need for sanctuary in the midst of busy days and challenging commitments. His book Sanctuary: Creating a Space for Grace in Your Life is a reminder that there is always a sanctuary awaiting us even in life’s most challenging times.
Sanctuary is about grace. It isn’t something we earn, but something we receive whether or not we think we deserve it. We can’t even “create” the space for grace; grace creates its own space. We simply need to receive what’s already waiting for us. We are always standing in the need of a grace both beyond and within ourselves. Our efforts can’t force it; it comes to us as a gift, the gift of peace, calm, healing, and hope.
As I read Hershey’s book, I remembered one of my favorite passages from the sermon “You are Accepted,” found in Paul Tillich’s The Shaking of the Foundations:
“We cannot transform our lives, unless we allow them to be transformed by that stroke of grace. It happens; or it does not happen. And certainly it does not happen if we try to force it upon ourselves, just as it shall not happen so long as we think, in our self-complacency, that we have no need of it. Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. It strikes us when we feel that our separation is deeper than usual, because we have violated another life, a life which we loved, or from which we were estranged. It strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before, and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance.”
We need space for grace, for letting God be God and accepting God’s gifts without reservation. This is the grace of interdependence, the grace of transformation, and the grace of love. Open to the fullness of life, we receive grace beyond all we can ask or imagine.