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I recently flew halfway across the United States with my daughter, helped her move into college, and flew back home alone. I am pleased with the school she chose and have no doubt she will flourish there. But helping her move also got me thinking about how God’s grace carries us through hard times.  

The emotional toll of moving a child to college

Mine was a largely joyful task. Nonetheless, there was some emotional toll to the whole event. There were the logistics of a cross-country trip: packing, flying, renting a car, finding the hotel, finding our way in an unfamiliar state, shopping for school supplies, moving in. There was negotiating how to be supportive in this next phase of my daughter’s life. And, of course, there was saying goodbye.

Moving through something difficult with faith

As I reflected on all this, I wondered about the many tasks or moments we are called to move through that have very little or no joy in them—healing from a broken or severed relationship, getting an unfavorable diagnosis, mourning the death of a spouse, family member or friend. How do we move forward in a way that reflects the knowledge that we are loved and cared for, held by a compassionate God? I think it must be only with grace.

We refer to grace in many different moments of our lives as Christians. We say perhaps when something tragic happens, “With God’s grace we will make it through.” And in times of immense gratitude we might say, “It is by the grace of God that I …” But what does grace look like?

God’s grace in moving my daughter to college

For me, on this trip, God’s grace was made real by the actions of others. Grace manifested itself in the encouraging hug of a coworker the day before I left, in an early morning phone call from my brother on move-in day, in texts from supportive friends, and in an understanding gate agent who printed my boarding passes when, still slightly discomposed from saying good-bye to my daughter, I couldn’t pull up my confirmation email on my phone. God’s grace was evident in the pink lines streaking the grey blue sky as my pre-dawn flight departed. All of this.

And strangely enough, the moving walkway at the airport reminded me of God’s grace. As I walked along to my gate, I stepped onto one of those moving sidewalks and it gently propelled me forward, smoothing out my steps, increasing my pace. I was still walking, moving ahead by my own will, but the sidewalk was there to aid me. I looked down and saw the word “WALK.”

The word "WALK" on a moving walkway, with a pair of brown shoes standing

That’s what I was already doing, of course. The parting and the days leading up to it hadn’t been easy, but the small kindnesses and care I received along the way were God’s gifts of grace to me—my moving sidewalk, perhaps. I looked to my right, and there the bright yellow letters spelled out “STAND.” I thought about the times when perhaps we don’t feel able to walk forward at all. Sometimes we can’t move on our own, and there’s a spot for those of us on the moving sidewalk too. We just step over to the other side and the grace of God moves us ahead anyway. Gently, smoothly, not too fast, we are carried forward to the gate where we need to be. 

God’s grace will carry you

Second Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” God’s grace is there for us. Sometimes it is right under our feet. May God’s grace move you forward on your journeys. May we all be God’s grace to others on their journey. 

Wendy Jager

Wendy Jager is on staff at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey. She also works part time for Interfaith-RISE, a branch office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.