Grace: The Price Is Hospitality

posted Sep 17, 2012, 9:15 AM by Interfaith WS

        Forty years old and divorced, Harry lived alone in a low-income efficiency apartment. For a decade, he had battled a drinking problem. Unable to look it squarely in the face, he never joined Alcoholics Anonymous. Some months ago, the problem got worse.

        “I was out walking with a friend of mine,” he said. “We were on our way to lunch. Weeks had passed since either of us had taken a drink. When we passed a bar, Joe nudged me.

        “’Man,’” he said. “’Would I love a Manhattan!’ Instantly, the thought of it possessed me. My mind’s eye saw the red liquid and the cherry. My mouth tasted its sweetness. My stomach felt it coursing along its lining. Intense desire filled me. Within minutes, Harry and I were sitting on a bar stool and downing our third Manhattan.

        “That night we landed in the hospital. After a week, we got out, and again we walked together to a cafeteria. Suddenly, Harry grabbed my arm. “’What do you say?’” he asked me. “’How about one – just one – only one – cocktail?’”

        “Minutes later, we were drinking again, nonstop. Again we landed in the same hospital. I told this story to a minister friend of mine. He said, ‘You must ask Jesus for his grace the instant your friend nudges you. You have to ask for grace to get it.’ The problem is that the moment I see or even hear the word ‘cocktail’ or ‘Manhattan’ I can’t resist. How do you get grace when you can’t resist?”

        Darshani: Many years ago, I played a lot of chess. As you may know, chess is a battle between two armies. Pawns are the little guys, the soldiers who fight the battle on the front lines. One of the first things you learn is how to protect them. In olden days, soldiers wore suits of armor. Nobody could attack them from the front or the back because their armor was impenetrable. Only at their sides were they vulnerable. For this reason, the only way an opponent can attack and capture a pawn on the chessboard is from an adjacent position. So your job as chess player is to learn how to avoid placing your soldiers in a position of adjacent vulnerability.

        Let’s apply this principle to you. You are walking down the street alone or with a friend. Of course, a real friend would never pull you down. Let’s say you are walking alone. Store windows attract you. Your head turns to the right: In a bakery window is an appetizing strawberry shortcake. In the sports store next to it, you see a jogging outfit. Next to that – uh oh! – brown colored bottles of liquid that make your life a hell.  Instantly, you turn back to them. Instead of visualizing a Manhattan or a swig of whiskey, you visualize these words: “I have had enough hell! Grace, here I come!” and you bold off like hell in the other direction. The desire to bolt off is your risk. Grace does the rest.

        Like the sun, grace never discriminates. The sun never says, “I will shine on Joe but not on Alan.” If we sit  in a dark room with shaded windows, how can we get sunlight? We have to get out and walk into it. To save your pawn, you get it out of the enemy’s line of attack. To get grace, you have to walk out of nongrace.

        We must become hospitable to change. If we do not, then just as today is like yesterday, every tomorrow will be like today. The price tag for what you want is hospitality. Pay it, and all the grace I the universe is yours.