Stephen D’Evelyn on Dealing with the Bad Habit of Discrediting Grace

Over Christmas I have had many moments of feeling unusually deep satisfaction and peace. Partly this has been due to having a loving and supportive wife and funny children. Partly this has been due to deeper insights into the mysteries of the Incarnation. Christ’s coming is an act of solidarity. It is also an act of making accessible immeasurable joy.
I have had to stop myself from deconstructing these moments of peace–questioning and analysing htem till they dissolve. Such navel-gazing analysis is a bad habit from past lives in particular circumstances. but I think it’s also typical of many people’s experiences these days. We are used to suspicion. Even the deep confidentiality and fidelity of friendship is now what we find in casual acquaintances on social media. We wouldn’t trust anything deeper.
In some sense the fight for disability rights has taught me to be cautious. I’ve had to struggle so long and so hard that it’s been easy to assume most of the structures of society are unjust. Indeed there is plenty of evidence to support this view and fighting injustice is crucial. It is also deeply satisfying.
But there si a also something more. The postures of powerlessness into which disability places us may also call us back to receptivity beyond cynicism. I have a game I play when I find myself stuck at an airport by some well-intending and over-worked member of ground staff. I imagine I’m one of the Antarctic explorers I liked to read about when I was a boy stranded on an ice floe. I try to explore my environs in bigger and bigger arcs, always coming back to base. Where is the nearst loo? Where is teh nearset shop? Then back to base-camp.
But this also very often becomes the opportunity for encountering people who are willing and even happy to help. The game helps me let go of trying to be in control. And so I can be open to the humour and kindness of strangers. Then I find skepticism and the desire to analyze my situation displaced by an openness to what may happen.
So as I think back over the days fo Advent and Christmas itself, I am grateful for being able to check the habits of discrediting grace with egotism. And even as my eyes sting from a long day of dodging the children’s electronic screens and chasing them in the middy play park, I can sip my pint of Beck’s and feel mellow and not wonder why.


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