Recently Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the celebrated memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, posted this Paul Tillich quote on Facebook. I added it to my page noting that the reason my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, has that title is because it took me so long to experience this truth.
Patricia Hollinger’s poem, Amazing Grace, appeared in True Words from Real Women, a Story Circle journal of short pieces of life-writing by SCN members. The topic for the September issue was grace. Patricia gave me permission to share her poem with you.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…
Just hearing the tune makes many a heart pound.
That saved a wretch like me!
Is what follows and causes me to plea.
I was NOT a wretch, “Damnit,” I said,
From such words I often fled.
With religious angst and major depression,
These words reinforced a negative impression.
I changed the word wretch to a soul like me,
After hours and hours of therapy.
Yes, I was lost in the throes of religious zealots,
Their words often stung me like BB pellets.
Now I am found in the truth of my soul,
Seeking this became my ultimate goal.
My eyes had been blinded for many years,
As I heard sermons designed to elicit fears.
“Tis the grace of the presence of a listening ear,
As I poured out my hopes and fears,
That brought me home to my true self,
Never again in fear will I sit on a shelf.
Patricia Ropp Hollinger
Dichotomy: Intellect & Soul
I could relate to Patricia’s blindness, having been blinded to grace myself for some of the very same reasons. While I didn’t intellectually take in the dogma, the words in the liturgy and music about sin and unworthiness found their way into my psyche, making my already difficult life circumstances even more grueling.
Thankfully, the preaching in my progressive denomination, often influenced by Paul Tillich’s theology, leans more toward emphasizing the love of the Divine. My own preaching certainly did. Still, like Patricia, I needed to pour out hopes and fears to compassionate listening ears. Much of my struggle in A Long Awakening to Grace is related to the confusing dichotomy between my intellect and my soul.
Graced with a Miracle: Radical Acceptance
And then, not so very long ago, a miracle happened. Another layer of numb gave way, awakening me to grace at a deeper level than I ever imagined possible. My eyes were opened to my wretchedness and at the same time to my loveableness. From this new vantage point, I could embrace the mixture we all seem to be…I could appreciate as never before our human journey of coming into consciousness of the divinity at our center.
With this radical acceptance of my humanness and my divinity, the dis-ease engendered by fear of condemnation, the stigma of guilt, and the decree of unworthiness has been tempered considerably. Their shadows continue to creep into my psyche from time to time. But awareness frees me to soulfully sing, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.
…remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Clarissa Pinkola Estés