"Suddenly it hit me, what these men were doing," my aunt explained. "I stood up, walked out of that room, and told myself that I'd never go back again, and boom, that was it. I never did. It was so easy."
My aunt spent years in a large, well-known cult. She left a few times, but always felt guilty, due to the brainwashing she had gone through, and went back to them. I was talking with her the other day, and she was explaining how she finally was able to break free. She had spent a couple years of independence from the cult, but felt guilty and contacted the leaders of her particular church again to ask about rejoining. These men told her she had to come in and be interviewed by them, to see if she was worthy and had repented adequately, to be allowed back into the fold. They interrogated her for over two hours, asking her about every detail of what she had done while she was away from them. They were especially interested in her sex life, asking for minute details on every move.
At first, she was ashamed and so desperate for their approval (which they had managed to conflate with the approval of God), she gave them everything they asked for. But at some point at near the end of the conversation, for reasons mysterious even to her, she suddenly just saw what was going on. She saw the reality of the spiritual and emotional abuse, and she saw the greed, lust, and authoritarianism of the men who were trying to control her. Boom. The revelation hit her with such force, it filled her with the strength to do what she had not been able to do before--leave the church forever. It was so easy, once she had that revelation. But she didn't work for it or try to make it happen. Her intent originally was actually to go back to the church. But suddenly -- boom -- awakening. Where did this come from?
Let's call it grace. (Kind of a funny term for this story, since my aunt is an atheist now, and the term "grace" is usually assumed as coming from God. Funny!)
I had a similar experience, but on a much smaller scale. I bought my first car when I was 16, and it was a beater. There were always things breaking down on it, and my parents were the type to make me pay for my own expenses (which I think is a great lesson and plan to raise my kids the same way). Money was always tight, though. Eventually i developed a pretty strong anxiety about the car and especially the money around the car. I had several quite large (for me) car repair expenses pop up over the course of my high school and college years, and they were hard for me to deal with. I bought books about car repair, to try to assuage my anxiety, so that I could feel like I knew what the mechanics were talking about and that I wouldn't be taken advantage of.
There was one time, I think it was shortly after I graduated college, when I got news of a car repair needed, and I was worried about how I was going to pay for it. I was driving down the road, worrying, trying not to worry, trying to think, trying to pray, when suddenly out of nowhere--boom-- an incredible peace. It was like a voice filled my entire body and mind, "Don't worry about the car. It's going to be fine, and you'll always be able to afford it." It was like a huge weight on my shoulders just dissolved, and I knew everything was going to work out. The anxiety was completely gone.
Ever since then, I haven't had anxiety around my car issues. Things come up, and I'm able to handle them. Not always easily, of course. Large repairs have still come up to be dealt with. Decisions have to be made. Insurance is a convoluted mess. I have duct tape holding my rear bumper on at the moment. But I'm just not worried about it. I'm able to achieve the right balance of spending the cognitive effort required to handle car issues, without falling into anxiety.
The thing is, I totally can't take credit for this, except that I'm a responsible adult who does adult things like buying insurance and maintaining a car. I mean the anxiety part. The release from that was just plopped into my lap out of nowhere. Boom. Gone. "Don't worry about the car," and I never did ever again. I didn't have to try not to worry. I didn't go through any kinds of rituals to release the worry or cope with it better. I just didn't worry about it anymore. It was 100% a gift. From where? Who can say? Grace.
I'm grateful for this. There have been a few other flashes of grace I've experienced, including a physical healing, and they are amazing when they happen. I know several other stories of other people experiencing these powerful flashes of grace, and they are inspiring to hear.
But I also find them problematic as well. Why are they so rare? Why do we have to struggle with so many things, while others are just handed to us? Why do some people experience more grace than others? Is there actually a formula to these flashes, that we all just accidentally used without knowing it... Could we find a way to force them to happen? What's going on?
If grace were coming from an intelligent consciousness of some kind, that consciousness would have to be an evil one, like an abusive parent or partner. The vast majority of people who commit emotional abuse are not awful and cruel 100% of the time. It is actually more cruel to be sometimes kind and warm, and other times terrible, because it confuses the victim and takes away more of their power. If you're horrible all the time, people can predict what's going to happen, and have a measure of control over their lives. It's much worse to be cruel only some of the time, and make those times random.
A consciousness powerful enough to provide support and relief for life's problems, but only does it some of the time, is not a good one. Aaaannnnd, we're getting into theodicy again...
Back to grace. What's going on? Is it something related to alternate universes and boundaries on how far alternate realities are allowed to branch out? Alignment of the stars? A higher self or unconscious deep mind? Wouldn't it be great to know?