Skip to main content

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

In Kathleen Norris’s book of essays on faith, she describes God’s grace like this: One day, sitting in the departure gate of an airport, she watched a young couple with an infant. As the infant looked around every time its gaze would make contact with a human it would beam with delight. It didn’t matter whether the human was young or old, ugly or beautiful, the infant smiled with joy.

Enchanted, Norris concluded, “I realized this is how God looks at us, staring into our faces in order to be delighted, to see the creature he made and called good, along with the rest of creation. And, as Psalm 139 puts it, darkness is as nothing to God, who can look right through whatever evil we’ve done in our lives to the creature made in the divine image.”

If God’s grace is given freely as an infant’s smile, why do we find it so difficult to accept?

Perhaps it begins with the simple definition of grace: “unmerited favor”.

As humans, especially as Americans, we believe that everything we have, either good or bad, has been earned through our own efforts, the sweat of our brow, or the result of our cunning.

Therefore, it goes against our ingrained nature to believe that God, so much greater than we, would willingly provide favor that we did not earn and could never be worthy of. And yet, that is the definition of grace.

One of the greatest stumbling blocks of my personal faith is embracing God’s love for me. Oh yes, I sing the familiar hymn. But when I closely examine my heart, the words ring hollow.

So it is only natural that my acceptance of God’s grace is somewhat akin to my belief that I will eventually win the Publisher’s Clearinghouse’ $7,000 a Week for Life’ contest.

But that is because I do not see myself as God sees me.

Yesterday, the Mystery Lovers Book Club of Summit County held our monthly meeting at the Next Page bookstore in Frisco. We discussed Still Life, the first book in the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny, one of my favorite authors. In this mystery series one of the most beloved characters is a horrible old woman named Ruth. She is a raging alcoholic, when she speaks it is only to insult or swear at her friends, and she has made some terrible mistakes in her long life.

Yet, when this award-winning poet puts pen to paper, it is as if a beam of light shoots from her barnacled old soul straight to heaven. The beauty and sorrow of her words is incandescent.

If Kathleen Norris’s delighted infant is a metaphor for how God feels about us, then Louise Penny’s Ruth is how God sees us. Not our mistakes, but our beauty. The golden light of our soul that perhaps we are blind to, but which God sees because he created us in his own image.

Yet we remain as blind to God’s unmerited favor as we do to our inner light. Because we cannot see ourselves as a piece of God’s heart, we do not believe we merit God’s favor. That it is given freely and available always. That there is nothing that can separate us from his love.

What then stops us from receiving it? What stops me, a lifelong Christian, from truly accepting God’s grace and love?

If I cannot accept God’s grace, if I cannot believe I am worthy of God’s love, is all hope lost? Is the divide never to be breached?

I believe all we can do, all I can do, is turn toward God as I am. With open arms and an open heart, turn toward God and say, “Here I am.”

God has promised that he will do the rest. “I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)

With our whole heart.  

On three different occasions, I have had three different priests ask me during Confession if I truly believe that God loves me.

God is trying to reach me. God is reaching toward each of us.

When I finally believe God loves me it will not be difficult to trust God. And if I trust God with a heart wide open, fear of the future will no longer be background white noise.

Experiencing God’s grace, trusting God’s limitless love, creates the freedom to embrace the future with arms wide open.

That is amazing grace.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson is the author of A Map of Heaven and other books. You can reach her at: or


Popular posts from this blog

Women are Highly Esteemed in the Eyes of This Man

I enter the sanctuary of Our Lady of Peace Church and my eyes adjust to the dimmed lights as the only illumination comes from candles on the altar and their glowing reflection in the monstrance holding the Blessed Sacrament.
My friend and I had come to join the Mary and Martha’s quarterly meeting which started with an hour of Adoration.
I took my seat in one of the pews, knelt, and surreptitiously glanced around the sanctuary. In the gloaming, I could see thirty other women kneeling like sentinels in silent prayer. 
Over the course of the hour, we would remain in contemplative silence.
As I slipped in and out of my prayers and wandering thoughts, I considered how pleased God must be when he sees us gathered in the simple and divine act of Adoration.
But in fact, women are highly esteemed in God’s sight not matter where we are. 
We only look at the life of Jesus Christ to understand how dearly he cherishes every woman.
In the Gospel of Saint John, a group of men bring a woman caught i…

When our spirit hungers

The precocious toddler’s interest in talking to her mother grew in insistence as the gathered group settled in for an hour of silent prayer. Shushing didn’t work, so the mother led her child into an adjoining room where she would still be part of the sanctuary, but sound would be dampened. Despite the closed door and heavy glass walls, the child’s fervent desire to speak with her mother was still audible.
I said a prayer for the patient mother determined to stay, and for the child who was either tired or hungry or impatient for Mom’s undivided attention. And then tried to bring my wandering thoughts back to prayer. I had come to Adoration with my own pressing need for answers.
Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a growing emptiness in my heart. A void, as if something is missing. It’s not psychological. Not physical. After doing an internal check, I determined it’s a spiritual void that I’m experiencing.
No, I’m not doubting God, his existence or goodness. I have full confidence in…

If you are tired of the guilt trip you usually feel at church, here’s a different perspective

I am counting the days until I fly to Fort Lauderdale to see Mom for Christmas. Yes, I speak with her every day, sometimes twice a day. But as you know, phone calls just aren’t the same as being with someone you love. I look forward to seeing Mom’s smile, to holding her hand, to going for a drive along the beach with her. Spending time in the presence of someone we love enriches our relationship with them.
I believe the love I feel for Mom, is a sliver of what God feels for each of us. I believe God longs to share that love with us. Which is why we are called to spend time in God’s presence daily. We experience God’s presence when we meet him in our prayers, in church, and hopefully in one another. If I could make one wish for each of us, it would be that at some point during the next four weeks of Advent we would experience how much Jesus loves us.

The Best Christmas

During my morning devotions, I read these two verses of Psalm 117:
Praise theLord,all you nations;
extol him, all you peop…