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God offers his Grace
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placeholder April 22, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers
God offers his Grace on our Path of Life

Walt Sears

It is evident God's gift of life includes a path that is unique to each of us. This does not mean that our fate is predetermined. Christian doctrine affirms that along with life, God gifts us with free will. The way we exercise free will can influence our life's path.

Though we'd like to believe that we have complete control over life's path, it is clear that our paths include elements beyond our control — fortuitous occurrences and inexplicable calamities. Since the dawn of time, people have asked why one person's path appears so vastly different than another's.

Why is it that some of us must deal with life-threatening disease, mental illness, crippling disabilities, poverty, bigotry, and more, while others do not? We simply do not know.

According to New Testament writings, the apostle Paul was a towering man of faith who, short of Jesus himself, did more than anyone else to establish and prosper the early Christian Church. Still, with all his gifts, talents and faith Paul did not escape hardship beyond his control. He had an infirmity of some kind of which he fervently desired to be healed. Though he prayed several times for relief, his affliction remained. This, apparently, was part of his path. But, though his prayers to be relieved of his burden were not granted, the Holy Spirit assured him that Christ's grace alone was all he needed (2 Cor 12:7-10).

We all face things beyond our control that diminish our experience of life — and this is especially true at the end of life. There may be loss of mental acuity, physical ability, awareness, mobility and independence. Though we may wish to avoid these deprivations, some may be integral parts of our path in life. These are our personal burdens to bear, with the help of Christ's grace.

The principles of Christian Stewardship encourage us to realize that, along with the gift of life itself, our particular path in life is also a gift. And since we are to hold all God's gifts with respect and dignity, and honor God by preserving them … our faith calls us to nurture and fight to preserve our gift of life, as best we can for as long as God grants it to us.

Our path toward the end of life, may involve struggle. It may be humbling and hard to bear. None-the-less, Christian Stewardship directs us to walk our path with faith, tenacity and courage for as long as it is ours to walk.

The good news is that, like Paul, God offers us his grace to help us throughout life's journey. We also have the loving presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ — no stranger to suffering himself, who constantly offers to share our burdens. And even with Christ's fellowship and God's graces our path may require struggle on our part. Thankfully, we know God may have given us the capacity to struggle beyond what we know or can conceive.

One example of this ability to struggle is the effort of Gabriela "Gaby" Andersen-Schiess, the Swiss runner in the women's marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Suffering from the apparent effects of heat exhaustion, she staggered into the Olympic stadium. The crowd reportedly gasped in horror at her twisted torso, so distorted by cramping. Though she had no hope of winning, Andersen-Schiess continued the race, refusing medical aide that would have disqualified her. This was her race, and as long as she could, she refused to let anyone or anything take it from her. The coliseum crowd rose and cheered as she struggled beyond what anyone could have imagined and finished the race.

This is the spirit in which I believe Christian Stewardship asks us to walk our path in life — to cherish it, to honor it, to fight with all we have to preserve it and to finish it well — because it is God's precious gift. Like Andersen-Schiess, the path may take us far beyond the point when we are having fun, feeling productive or enjoying life. But, that was never the point. The point is to walk the path faithfully to the best of our ability as long as it is ours to walk. Until God calls us home. Amen.

(Walt Sears is a lay ecclesial minister in the Diocese of Oakland.)

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