For me, the word “grace” is as abstract as they come. But if, as I do, you write about religion (and no, I cannot fully explain that) you need to understand Grace because it figures prominently in all Christian faiths. As far as I can tell it’s God’s whim, good things coming to us whether we deserve them or not.
Medieval people had a world view that life was a game of snakes and ladders (Chutes and Ladders I played as a kid).
The only way to mitigate bad luck (or a fall from grace) was to do good deeds that would allow you to climb up a ladder taking you quickly to a higher level. The highest level would be salvation, of course, knowing with certainty that you were destined to sit beside God and Jesus in Heaven. An element of this perspective was the idea that opportunities for good deeds and calamitous falls hung on the throw of the dice — grace. Your best shot at salvation came from doing good deeds and NOT landing on snakes.
The game is filled with moral lessons and “if” statements. Good things come through a combination of luck and effort. Bad things? Well, they just happen. And then you have to recover.
I completely get this game. All this has happened to me so many times it’s laughable. I think of 2008 when I threw out the Evil X and began the effort to rebuild my life financially. Then my Aunt Martha died and left me $20k. I fixed the roof on my house and built an art shed. After all, I was earning good money (and working constantly) so I could “afford” these two things, but then 2009 came along and the market crashed. The State of CA was in terrible debt, all state employees were furloughed and my income dropped drastically, meaning, I almost lost my house.
“Should’ve saved that money,” I thought.
“How were you to know?” I answered myself.
“Good point,” I replied to me.
But that was a long, slippery snake.
I called my mortgage company and they connected me to a special counselor they’d hired to help people in this very common predicament. “I think you might qualify for Obama’s Home Affordable Modification Program. I’ll send you the paper work.”
The ladder was hard. Every month I had to send my mortgage company detailed financial reports (25 to 50 pages) about my income and expenditures. I had to go to a debt counselor. I had to teach 7 classes. I drove 100 miles/day. My mortgage payment of $1500/month was reduced to $600, and I got a new mortgage and kept my house (by the grace of?). I later learned that not a lot of people got this chance.
Protestantism is based on the idea that people achieve salvation not through good deeds but because God wants them to be saved. Medieval people truly believed good deeds (like kissing a leper) earned them Grace.
I think the game is right on. I’m not sure kissing a leper would have prevented the economic crisis, but it might have changed my perspective on my plight, because, as my grandfather was known to say, “There but for the Grace of God go I.”