Overwhelming Grace

These are overwhelming days.

One morning last week I made the mistake of skipping my typical routine of beginning the day with something from Ron Rolheiser or Richard Rohr, and instead checked the NY Times on my iPad. Screen after screen was filled with pandemic stories. 


One news story spoke of a family in Louisiana whose lawyer husband got COVID-19, received a misdiagnosis of the flu, and wound up in ICU on a ventilator. He was able to take only two breaths on his own in a six day period. Two breaths. 

Overwhelming. If we could just breath. 

In the face of the dramatic and fundamental challenges of our world, where some leaders blatantly disregard truth, where greed is openly celebrated, where prejudice is too easily tolerated, where poverty is routinely ignored, where refugees are typically forgotten, where the church so easily falls victim to hypocrisy . . . life is overwhelming. And then we’re plunged into a global pandemic and economic recession. How small and incapacitated we feel. 


But a strange line from Rohr comes to mind (Everything Belongs, 57):

“God’s life is living itself in me. I am aware of life living itself in me.”

Place that remarkable comment alongside Paul’s notion of being “in Christ,” and the resulting idea is that God is living life in me, and I am living life inside of God. And the same is true for everyone else who is vulnerable to God who is within. If we are big enough for Christ to live within and to live within Christ, we are not too small at all. Life feels less overwhelming. I can breathe a little.  

John Claypool, a Baptist and later Episcopalian minister, wrote years ago about a deep tragedy in his family’s life. After their young daughter died of leukemia, Claypool said he almost went out the bottom with grief. The only thing that kept him going was the scripture. And in particular the scripture that says: 

“Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength: they will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isa 40:31). 

Claypool said that in his debilitating grief he didn’t need the grace to fly—an unimaginable thing. He didn’t need the grace to run—impossible. He just needed the grace to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Just take one step. 

God within me, who is also within God,

Give grace to take one step, and the next.

Give grace to breathe, even if it’s only two breaths. 

Give grace for the overwhelming.


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