One of my all-time favorite authors is Annie Dillard, and I am loving spending a few weeks this November discussing some of her essays in Teaching a Stone to Talk. One of the earliest offerings that I gleaned from reading her books was this relatively straightforward quotation, “We catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.” It’s from her prize-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Two disclaimers: this one is actually not my favorite of her books, and these days I grimace a little at her non-inclusive language.
And still. We catch grace as if we are standing with little teacups, drenched under a waterfall. This is how I visualize her words.
We catch a lot of things. We catch tidbits of conversation in hallways. We catch the weight of the news of the world. We catch the sorrow of our lives or of those we walk through life with. We catch colds. We catch coffee on the run with a friend when we can find the time. We catch up with the laundry and get immediately behind again. We catch as catch can.
And we catch grace. We catch a sunny afternoon. We catch the refrain of a song we love. We catch a glimpse of a beloved one. We catch our breath. We catch up on a show that transports us for a little while. We catch sight of the leaves changing, or even better we catch sight of a child catching leaves as they fall.
There is a torrent all around us—a torrent of news and grief and dysfunction and violence. And Annie Dillard is here to remind us that there is also a waterfall of beauty and love and reasons for hope. It is spilling over us, and we would do our best to cup our hands or grab a cup and notice the good. To sip even a few drops can quench our thirst for wonder and delight.
Friends, this is not a Pollyanna post. I am not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand. I am suggesting that we not ignore the stories of hope, the funny jokes, the rest stops where we can put our feet up for a bit, and the small kindnesses offered all the time by friend and stranger alike. God’s grace is abundant, flooding even this broken world and these bewildering days. Mercy and forgiveness show up and release us back out into the world with freedom and joy.
We catch grace, sweetness, light, care, gentleness in thimblefuls compared with the magnitude of love that God pours out into creation. We can feel flooded and overrun in so many ways, and there are a lot of things to catch. My hope is that I can find myself virtually drowning in some of the beauty and grace that pours out like a waterfall. I’ll cup my hands or grab the nearest cup to catch just a bit.