"By the grace of God I am what I am, and (God's) grace to me was not without effect." (1 Corinthians 15:10)
Early in my ministry career, I was a college chaplain and often spoke at youth retreats. On one such occasion, I was traveling from Chicago to Seattle with two college students, who were to provide music. We were on United Airlines, which at that time, scheduled flight attendants to work together for an entire month.
Somewhere over South Dakota, the crew announced that, because this was the last day of their working together, they were going to celebrate by holding a talent contest for passengers. The winner would receive a bottle of champagne.
Bob, one of my musician companions, immediately pulled his guitar down from the overhead luggage bin and went to the front of the plane with a handful of other hopefuls. I knew the others had no chance — none — against this extraordinarily talented young man with a flair for performance.
The passengers on our DC-10 were treated to a series of lame jokes and old songs crooned badly. Then came Bob. He sang a peppy song he had written using invented words that was a hit at every youth retreat. He engaged his audience at 35,000 feet and soon had them singing his nonsense syllables with gusto. Returning to his seat at the rear of the plane to loud applause, grinning from east to west, Bob proudly displayed his bottle of champagne. "What else could I do?" he said. "I am what I am — an entertainer!
It's a great mercy to be able to accept the circumstances, opportunities and limitations, which make up my life in this moment. To receive and work within them, not lamenting that they are not stronger…or other…than they are right now — this is the meaning of living by grace.
I am what I am. Greater still is the mercy of hope, the ability to embrace my sample of life while looking forward to what's next. It's not enough to say, "I'm stuck here; I can do no other."
Grace is dynamic. Full of hope, I accept with gratitude the circumstances of today, but I live with the promise of tomorrow. I'm becoming what I ought to be.
A young man, whose body and speech were severely affected by cerebral palsy, spoke at a meeting I attended. "What you see is a handicapped person," he said. "I am what I am. But in here," he continued, pointing to his head, "I'm an All-Star second baseman, turning double plays and headed to the Hall of Fame."
I was moved. Grace is not without effect.