Experiencing Grace

We went to Grace Cathedral this morning. I was excited when I learned that our hotel was right across the street from it, as I had already read about it in my research on places to see in San Francisco. The fact that it had not one, but two labyrinths moved it to the top of my priority list. Yesterday while touring the North Beach area, we walked through Saints Peter and Paul…also beautiful. I am always grateful for the sacred quietness of churches like these. We walked in silence, taking in the beautiful surroundings along with others who were doing the same. Several people simply sat in the pews, heads bowed. I recalled the cathedrals of Italy and England that we have visited, each unique and yet similar in the sense of the Sacred Divine they imparted. 

So, I approached Grace Cathedral this morning with anticipation, ready to soak in the beauty and reflectively walk the labyrinth. Instead, I was taken aback at the disruption unfolding around me. A small group of tourists stood in the main aisle, talking loudly about their plans. Another young family ignored the signs telling of the labyrinth’s purpose, letting their kids run in circles around it while they focused on their cell phones. Another woman started down the aisle while drinking her Starbucks, only to turn around with a roll of the eyes when a cathedral employee pointed out no food or drinks were allowed. 

Internally, I was having quite a conversation. “Are you kidding me?! Have they no reverence? Or even common courtesy? Don’t they know there are some of us who would like to experience this space for what it was intended to provide?” Even as my mind spun, I knew I needed to bring some calm to my soul that was so longing for some sense of the Divine. As I worked to quiet my frustration and judgement, the irony was not lost on me that Chris stood reading a big notice welcoming everyone to Grace Cathedral. 

The rule of Grace is the stranger making himself/herself at home.

Perhaps you quietly dropped by wanting to reconnect in your relationship to God.

Or to confess shame.

Or to surrender a burden.

Or to pray for a loved one.

Or to bask in the beauty of holiness.

Or to find a moment of peace.

In the midst of what appears to be an ever-increasing fragmentation of life,

Grace offers a House of Prayer for All People,

An abiding hope that there is a Oneness at the center of life.

Grace holds an outrageous hope that, in God alone, all aspects of life are in unity.

As I paused to let the words sink in, I was able to hold both sadness that many have no context for the sacred, and thus no reason for reverence, alongside the words that welcomed ALL people, no matter their beliefs, or even behavior. After all, that is what Jesus was all about. I don’t think I will ever have a day where I am not aware again of the tension of life, the importance of holding both/and, the lack of predictable, clear absolutes. 

After walking the interior of the cathedral with a slightly more grateful heart, I headed outside in hopes that the outdoor labyrinth would be less crowded. And it was. As I began the familiar weaving back and forth along the path, I felt more of the thoughts and judgements crowding my head let go. There is something mystical about the path to the center, a letting go of everything that hinders connection. And then the risk to trust receiving in the center, once the heart and head are quiet enough to hear. Finally, the path back out was a time for remembering, and gratitude for all that had transpired in my heart in the few moments I had chosen to quiet myself, slow down, and walk with intentionality. 

The words “outrageous hope” caught my attention the first time I read them, and are still lingering in my heart. As I struggle to hold onto a hope that feels foolish; hope for my children, hope for my relationships, hope for my own journey, I have a new standing stone, a marker of a moment when Wild Jesus met my heart with Grace. 

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