According to Wikipedia, the concept of grace is present in many religions and "...has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify..."
Now, I don't believe in divine influence. I don't believe in religion. I don't even believe in God.
But I believe in grace.
I believe we each have the capacity within ourselves to regenerate... to sanctify... to make whole what was broken in our hearts, minds, and spirits... to forgive ourselves our failings, no matter how egregious they seem... and to begin anew -- again. And again.
I believe it -- I do -- but I don't always put the belief into practice. I have lived for a long time, bogged down by the failures of yesterday and, at times even, the failures I see coming (which is nuts, I know).
(I've never claimed to be completely sane.)
One of my (newer) favorite quotes is from F. Scott Fitzgerald...
It's actually part of a larger quote from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a beautiful short story-turned-movie (one of my favorites) about a man who is born old, and lives his life backward:
For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit. Stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.
For me, this sums up the concept of grace.
I've started on a path this year that feels different to me from any path I've been on before. I'm not entirely sure if I chose it or if it chose me, but I'm on it, regardless. It's new, it's been startling at times, and it's requiring me to look at others, at myself, and at the things I've believed for a long time, in a new light -- from a new perspective.
It has forced me to start over in many ways.
It has caused me to see that, in order to move forward, I have to let go of the things that are holding me back -- the regrets, the failures, the criticisms, the judgments -- of myself and others.
It has made me realize how important forgiveness is -- not just forgiveness of others, but (and maybe more importantly) forgiveness of myself.
It is helping me to understand that when I fall, when I mess up, when I let myself or someone else down, it's not finished. I can start all over again. And again.
It is forcing me to live more gracefully.
Is a very good thing.