Perfectly spilled coffee



If I had to define it, I would say that my spirituality is one of gift. My life is generally characterized by gratitude to God because I recognize his presence and love through so many gifts. He has given me eyes to see everything as a gift, and this is how I understand the goodness of God in every moment. But the depth of this conviction was tested recently as I read some early Church writings about grace for homework. I simultaneously felt at home in these writings, in which every good thing is seen as a gift from God, while also feeling challenged by the thoroughgoing claim that “A person can do nothing good without God,” as the Synod of Orange declared in 529.

That’s hard to accept!

Why can I do nothing good by myself? The issue at hand is not this statement about how God’s grace is intrinsic to the structure of the universe, including human action; that statement is simply true. I can do nothing good by myself because I can do nothing without God; everything is given by him! Creation is gratuitous, and every moment of our lives is a gift from the breath of God, continually sustaining our existence. The issue is simply in my own heart; I am in constant need of purification of my pride to believe these truths more deeply, and to live more freely and lovingly as a consequence.

I turn again to one of my favorite verses: “Indeed, you love truth in the heart, then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom. O purify me, then I shall be clean. O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps 51:8-9). May the Lord teach us the wisdom to understand fully that we can do nothing without him (see Jn 15:5). May he cleanse our hearts of the pride that clings to credit for doing good things so that we might remember that we have nothing which we have not received (see 1 Cor 4:7). May he convince us ever more of how his grace, his loving intervention, permeates our lives for the good, for true life, for freedom.

Even in the past few days, God has revealed his grace in the most significant life commitments as well as the seemingly least-important blunders. A friend of mine recently ended her engagement, and we have spent a lot of time thinking about the Lord’s mercy in a situation that seems so messy. She texted me that she is gaining peace as she can see that “all things are a gift from God!” The Lord is at work in her decision of great magnitude, showing his love, and leading my friends to better and truer lives.

He was also at work on a recent Monday morning, when I perfectly spilled my coffee. I had considered soaking my apple crisp breakfast in my coffee when I was in the kitchen, but I decided the desire was trivial. As I made my way to my room, juggling my water bottle, coffee, keys, and apple crisp, my precarious balance failed at the last second—and the result was a delight! Neither rug nor robe were stained; the coffee was contained in my bowl of apple crisp, and I still had a mug half full of coffee to drink since it was resting at an angle in the bowl. God gave me a graceful spill that not only granted my wish of coffee-soaked apple crisp (without depriving me of coffee), but also made me laugh throughout the following days.

These examples are apparently at opposite ends of the spectrum: healing from a broken engagement and marveling at a morning coffee spill. But believing in the permeation of grace means precisely this: the consistent and thoroughgoing love of God reaches everything. The Lord lifts his hand actively and persistently in our lives and hearts in every moment, no matter the supposed magnitude, whether we think about a diamond ring or a Monday cup of coffee. Yes, everything is a gift. Thanks be to God!