June: Grace is the Ace for the Race

Have you ever disappointed someone? Has someone disappointed you? Have you disappointed yourself either in words or action? Have you gone through an unforgettable humiliation and disgrace that you just couldn’t forgive or forget? Has life treated you badly?

To some, life is not fair. But one reality that everyone has to live with is that life is not perfect – like a swing, it oscillates upwards and downwards, throwing its passengers in different directions of the rife and strife of life! I have come to terms with the reality that no matter how much I try, I will never measure up to some people’s expectations.

Just as it is impossible to walk without one’s head shaking or tilting, it is difficult, if not impossible, to live under the illusion that one can satisfy everyone. So life is not just fair to so many people! Life is not fair when there is a starving child in a world where food is wasted.

Life is unfair in a country where the wounded is left to bleed to death despite the possibility of a medical intervention. Life is not fair in a place where justice is only for the highest bidder.

Life is not fair in a setting where the poor but innocent could end up dying helpless and hapless in jail despite the country’s reputation for having a strong rule of law.

Life is unfair when a pregnant woman ends up dying on an operation table as a result of a medical mistake. The list is endless. But how do we respond?

This is where the word “grace” becomes so powerful. Viewed through the lens of a physical human body movement, the word could mean “simple elegance or refinement of movement”; synonymous with “elegance, poise, gracefulness, finesse; suppleness, agility, nimbleness, [and] light-footedness”. For example, the movement of Prince Harry and his new bride as they walked out of the wedding venue could be described as “graceful”. From a spiritual angle, “grace’ is defined as “the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings”.

The word “grace” is said to be synonymous with “dignify, distinguish, honor, favor; enhance, ennoble, glorify, elevate, aggrandize, [and] upgrade”. A free gift costs me nothing. An unmerited favor erases my shortcomings and inadequacies.

Grace gives undeserved blessings. Grace gives unmerited forgiveness.

Grace gives additional room to accommodate the less qualified and the underprivileged. Grace offers highly needed support to the needy.

Grace lifts up the downtrodden in the midst of humiliation. Grace covers a multitude of sins.

Grace overlooks errors and misdemeanors.

Grace devotes total emphasis on rescuing. Grace is a priceless gift of inestimable value that an individual can give to another. Grace is the ultimate ace to eliminate disgrace.

While ‘ace’ is defined as “a playing card with a single spot on it, ranked as the highest card in its suit in most card games”, it also refers to “a person who excels at a particular sport or other activity”, and is synonymous with such descriptions like “expert, master, genius, virtuoso, maestro, adept, past master, doyen, champion, record holder, star, hotshot, wizard, pro, whiz”; and ‘ace’ is also regarded as “very good; excellent, first-rate, first-class, marvelous, wonderful, magnificent, outstanding, superlative, formidable, consummate, skillful, great, terrific, tremendous, superb, fantastic, sensational, fabulous; awesome, magical, tip-top, top-notch; blue-ribbon, blue-chip, [and] brilliant”, among others.

No matter how bad a case, grace will leave room for understanding. No matter how ugly a face, grace will see the hidden beauty.

No matter how harsh a place, grace will provide a nice room for collaboration. No matter how backward a race, grace will see the potential good in it.

No matter how harrowing the menace, grace will bring some succor and safety.

Grace brings solace. Grace destroys enmity by bringing cold-hearted enemies together in warm embrace. Grace prevents painful grimace in the harsh marketplace. Grace through sharing and caring brings joy to the populace. Grace unveiled in true affection turns a commonplace into a palace.

For the purpose of this article, ‘race’ in the context here is not in reference to a people-group but to the ‘race of life’, ‘rat race’, and “competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to see which is the fastest in covering a set course”. Life is not fair to many people because we are forced into a life of competition whose rules of engagement are imposed.

We run the race of life with expectations that are huge and confusing. Life race expects us to win at all costs, to manipulate and maneuver to be the best, to hide our pain in order to show vain strength, to ignore our values in order to belong, to deny our friends in order to look good, to lie about our weaknesses in order to be a perfect example, and even to show toughness in order to give a false hope of security and invincibility!

Many are about to give up because the burden is becoming unbearable. Others are tired of the façade. A lot are groaning under the huge load of self-deception.

The world is in dire need of compassion and understanding; not a show of power and pride. Where anger reigns, a smile must take over in order to bring life back to the environment. Where unforgiveness rules, the unconditional love and the amazing grace that could wipe away the cloudy bitterness that is fast enveloping the world must take over.

Grace gives the power to forgive. Grace produces the motivation to keep trying. Grace releases the joy to trust again.

Grace emits invincible hope to quell hopelessness. Grace utters the magic words: “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.

Grace switches curse into blessings.

Grace flips harm into help.

Grace turns enmity into amity; pain into gain; zero into hero; shame into fame; nothing good into something good; mess into a message; doom into boom; bitter into better; austerity into prosperity; obscurity into celebrity; inferiority into superiority, pomposity into generosity, and from pitiable vulnerability to solid sustainability.

Grace changes condemnation into commendation.

Grace helps partners to complete and complement one another instead of the worldly rat race that mandates them to compete against each other.

In the rat race of life, we face situations that may deface us, displace us, replace us, misplace us, outrace and outpace us with boldface without a trace. However, divine grace is the ace we all need to run the race in order to avoid disgrace.

(❚ Dr. Sunday Akin Olukoju is a university tutor, a college advisor, a community newspaper correspondent, and the president of a community organization)

May: Inspire Before You Expire!