I’m terrified of deep open water. The feeling of floating helplessly above the nothing, the unexplored leaves me frozen. This was the first time I had ever been in an exihibit that lets you feel like you are seeing fish deep under the water, and I was a little shook. Looking up however, I could see the tank continued and let you see the only light source coming into the water, revealing more of this deep water. I smiled.

Today’s homily focused a lot on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the concept of “Cheap Grace” and the Cost of Discipleship. It makes sense as we approach Ash Wednesday and Lent that this might be a topic for a homily. After all, it seems that the focus of Lent is so often “Doing Stuff” like we think we can earn God’s love. As Jesus observes, the sun and the rain fall on both the just and the unjust. That light shining through the water hits the whales, the fish, the sharks and the algae — and even a human diver. Nothing earns the light, but the enjoy it you must be present.

Grace is not cheap or expensive. It’s free. It can’t be earned, it can’t be bought. To experience the benefits of this free gift takes an open heart and some “doing” or a change of heart, change of point of view — Metanoia or repentance. But the grace itself: free.

Approaching Lent is always problematic for me. I must identify the attachments before I can let go of them. My eyes were opened last night during an episode of Candice Renoir. While looking at a nun’s cell in a monastery containing nothing personal, I thought “maybe I’m too attached to things. I would be hard pressed to give up everything and walk away like that.” But, I’m of two minds on that. Twenty three years ago our house burned. The cats got out, and somehow the photo albums survived without too much damage.. But, almost everything else was a lost cause. Months later, after rebuilding we moved back in. What we had in storage could be moved back in 2 loads in a small Nissan pickup truck. That would be a table, 7 chairs, a hutch, some dishes (they survive these things pretty well), photo albums and some music CDs. Not much else. Oh — a china cabinet and barrister bookshelves survived. Most of this had to be completely refinished. Later that year, my stepbrother would ask how we survived this. He had lost a couple of friends in accidents that same year. My response was immediate: It was just stuff. Not people, not pets, just stuff. So, perhaps the total lack of anything personal such as a family photograph or some other small momento was the disturbing part of the scene.

What other attachments keep me from benefiting from this free grace? My pride? My ego? I do have to remember that “It’s not all about me.” That hit home the other morning when I said something and got jumped all over. It was jarring because the response seemed so out of range for the comment. After stepping back and pondering a bit instead of snapping back, it seems that I was the nearest object of someone’s frustration. I’m not sure what the real problem was, but I’m pretty sure it was more than the suggestion that someone move their underwear to the laundry hamper.

Maybe I forgo sugar for Lent. Yeah, trite, I know. But, if it’s done in the spirit of interrupting a dependence on the rush one can get from sugar, and focusing on being more attuned to my mental and physical state when I’m sugar free, that could work. I did it in January and I have to admit that there were emotional and physical benefits. I think I sleep better. I don’t have to waste energy fighting cravings because they pretty much disappear. That leaves more energy for other things.

Grace can’t be bought and it can’t be earned. But, it does take a bit of work to recognize and reap the benefits I think.