"GRACE is the face love wears when it meets imperfection," Sister Anne assured me almost 18 years ago. "You are experiencing pure GRACE my girl, you are experiencing a miracle healing your heart."
I was 33 years of age in a room full of women far older and far more conservative than me. I made Pamela Anderson look like Julie Andrews in those days. My skirts were very short, my tops very low and my wedges very high. Some things do not change; my wedges still are very high 20 years later! My sexual energy walked into the room and dominated in those days. I deliberately dressed that way to distract the world from seeing my fragile heart.
I am not inferring for one moment it was a healthy or even an attractive component of my being. Sexual energy was just my most confident language. I was fluent as I learned about it prematurely as a child at the hands of two male predators from as far back as I can remember.
However clean and sober, I believed I looked like a hooker externally, but felt like a Nun, an emotional virgin, internally. So this lovely word GRACE was a mystery to me back then. I was only familiar with it as a word used for prayer before eating, you know, "Let's say GRACE".
Beautiful Sister Anne has now passed on, however 20 years ago she was still a practicing Catholic Nun, but also a recovering alcoholic like me. An interestingly wise and worldly woman to say the least. She used to keep a seat empty at an always packed all female meeting I would attend like clockwork. I was often late and felt obliged to sit next to her as she patted the chair. I was embarrassed to be the train wreck that I was in those days. I was a single mum on the pension with two little boys. I was so confused about so much without the protection of a 19-year habit of drug and alcohol abuse.
I did pray a lot back though, and still do.
But not to Sister Anne's God I used to explain to her when she would ask me about prayer. I only prayed to Mother Nature and Father Time. It is what I learned to do as a four-year-old child when the violence all got too much for me. I identified with the saying "Religion is for people that don't want to go to hell, spirituality is for those of us that have been there and don't want to go back."
So I could not believe in Sister Anne's God I explained guiltily to her. The only way I was comfortable even using the word God was if the letters stood for G=great O=out and D=doors. The great, out doors was where I felt my heart's spirit connect. Sister Anne explained that God's GRACE and pure love is the same thing. So I did not have to believe in her type of God, it was okay as long as I didn't give up on believing in love, GRACE would work miracles in my life.
I began to love sitting either next to Beautiful Barb or Sister Anne in those meetings as the days, months, then years passed. Both would always save me a seat. I felt a sense of belonging and acceptance with them. It was a feeling I had never experienced with women before then.
I would sometimes bring my knees up to my face on the chair to hide my face as I cried and rocked so raw, confused and fragile, ashamed of who I had been and who I'd become.
These divine women would tell me GRACE was at work, and that I would come to love being myself in time. They explained that I was travelling my rite of passage from a fearful girl into an empowered woman. It sucked as far as I was concerned.
There was so much grief laundry for me to do, I sat on the floor of my life disenchanted and unwilling at times, but didn't stay there too long.
I have come to understand that grief for us all in this life is inescapable. We all have to do our grief laundry at some stage.
Grief stains are the toughest I believe on our heart though. GRACE will however remove even the toughest grief stains. Grief does not change us; it is actually a gift for it reveals us.
To allow GRACE an entry point into our lives we must first be willing to acknowledge our whole life story to someone, somewhere at some point. The unedited version, that is. The light and the dark side. In admitting to and owning our imperfect shadowed self, we learn to embrace the entirety of our human experience. "GRACE is the face love wears when it meets imperfection", Sister Anne said.
When we learn to face the imperfections in ourselves with love, then we are free to do so for others too. This is pure GRACE at work. When those of us who are used to looking at our reflections with disappointment and distrust, now looking into our own eyes with love and compassion instead. An act of GRACE. Nothing short of a miracle.
There is great beauty in us all, in our human imperfections. However, Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that "Beauty without GRACE, is the hook without the bait."
Sister Anne, Beautiful Barb and Barbs darling mother Mary have been the ambassadors for GRACE in my life. They shared that rare beauty that older people who carry GRACE in their eyes posses because they have their heart lights on. The likes of Audrey Hepburn, Meryl Streep, Judy Dench, Morgan Freeman, Billy Connolly and Clint Eastwood twinkle with the gift of age and life they exude experience and joy without saying a word.
So as I sign off let us consider this beautiful word GRACE and Sister Anne's translation?
The miracle of GRACE has transported me as Sister Anne predicted. I have come to love being who I am, no longer ashamed and embarrassed; and for that priceless gift I will forever be eternally grateful. I can give myself loving compassion when I stuff up. She was right; God's GRACE and love are interchangeable words.
So for those of you that do not subscribe to a religion like me, but are most definitely into nature and love; were not excluded from the miracle of GRACE healing our battle-weary heart.
I wish you a GRACE filled day.
Lotsa love Cynthia xxx