What Is Grace?

My mother and countless aunts were beautiful West African women who raised me and whose colorful, passionate personalities seemed larger than life. These women danced freely and sensually at family gatherings, teaching me how to sway my hips with what should have been a natural rhythmic instinct. These women disciplined and advised me as though they had all given birth to me. These were women who, in my mind's eye could do just about anything, shake a dollar out of a quarter, balance full-time work and childrearing and find enough time to travel the world returning home with pockets full of unbelievable stories that suggested they had visited countries that didn't exist to the rest of us.

That U2 song makes me picture "Grace" as an endlessly resourceful and imaginative West African woman, strong and playful but full of loving discipline and sage counsel. Maybe "Grace" sashays her hips to a loving tune of discipline, forgiveness, nurturance and celebration, like my community of aunts. Maybe "Grace" never runs out of imaginative ways to love us and to encourage us to choose life over all other options no matter how dire and desperate things may seem.

I do not mind being followed by the question of grace. It keeps me from getting too comfortable or rigid in my definitions. It keeps me open to looking out for glimpses of God in the liveliest and most mundane of places.

Parts of this article are adapted from "Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent, Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community" by Enuma Okoro. Copyright c 2010 Fresh Air Books. Used with permission.

Enuma Okoro was born in the United States but reared in five countries on three continents. Currently living in Durham, N.C., she says her writing is inspired by all the cultures and people in which she continues to find glimpses of God. Her spiritual memoir, "Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent, Introvert's Search for Spiritual Community" was released in September.

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