The Double Lie
When I was a student at Harvard Divinity, one of the most popular stories was the one explaining the reason for the fracture in the prominent nose of Paul Tillich's death mask. According to the legend, the librarian needed a door stop and none being available she took the mask off the wall, lodged the nose under the edge of the door and it broke off clean. We loved that story and told it to all the new students. Of course, none of it was true. There was no death mask of Paul Tillich and no librarian. It was such a great example of the power of a double lie to make something sound indisputably true.
However, that's not my point. I needed an introduction to a remarkable quote from Paul Tillich. I saw this last night and sent it to a dear friend going through very deep waters.
“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life…. It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.’ If that happens to us, we experience grace.”
I have never been part of a larger concentration of people who believed less in acceptance and more in performance and striving for approval than my classmates (myself included) at Harvard Divinity. How I wish I would have absorbed this truth about grace from a broken man instead of a double lie in its place.