Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Saying Grace June 1, 2012

Filed under: Psalms — Stephanie Rische @ 8:11 am
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Whenever we ate a family meal at my grandparents’ house, there were two things I could always count on: Grandma’s homemade rolls (accompanied by jam made with raspberries from their garden) and Grandpa’s trademark prayer before we ate. Without fail, he’d quote these verses from the Psalms:


The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
And You give them their food in due season.
You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

—Psalm 145:15-16


His voice was resonant, backed by a rock-solid faith. It was the same prayer his own parents and his grandparents before them had said around the table, only they’d spoken the blessing in German. I confess that as a kid, I’d open my eyes during the prayer just so I could see Gramps’s face, a mysterious blend of humility and confidence.


Gramps grew up on a farm without much money—he loved telling us grandkids stories about how his family made do without electricity and running water until he was well into his teen years and how he and his cousin had to create their own Monopoly game out of cardboard and scrap paper. But he believed in hard work and education, and he managed to clock enough hours on the job to put himself and his three daughters through college.


Yet through it all, he never credited his abilities or his hard work for the provision. He knew that everything he and his family had, including the meal on the table, was a gift from the open hand of God.


I’m ashamed to say that in the thousands of times I’ve “said grace,” I’ve never thought through what that actually means. Sure, I’ve made it a habit to pause and thank God for the food, but I tend to miss the fact that each meal is indeed grace—undeserved blessing from the hand of God. Maybe I cooked it myself and maybe it was my paycheck that bought the groceries, but on deeper reflection, I have to admit that it was my Creator who gave me the hands to chop the onions, a mind to read the recipe. And he’s the one who gave us the ability and the opportunity to bring home the proverbial bacon in the first place.



The last time I was at my grandparents’ house, Gramps wasn’t the same man I used to know. He now suffers from dementia, and although he is as quick as ever with a witty pun or a compliment about how lovely I look, he can no longer remember why he walked into the kitchen or how I’m related to him.


But when it came time to pray, he knew just what to say:


The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
And You give them their food in due season….


I opened my eyes as Gramps prayed, just as I’d done as a child, so I could memorize his face. Still faithful, after all these years. Yes Lord, I echoed silently. Our eyes look expectantly to you, even now. Even in this season.


I’ve always loved this quote by G. K. Chesterton:


“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”


Chesterton knew what Grandpa knows: grace isn’t just meant to be received; it’s also meant to be said. Not so much for God’s sake, to tickle his ears, but as a reminder for us. There’s something about the saying of the grace, about acknowledging it out loud, that makes it more real.


Whether I’m sitting at the dinner table or at the opera, may I never forget to speak the grace. And may I never forget—through every day, in every season—the one who faithfully opens his hand to us.


Note: This is a picture of my mom with Gramps, taken last May.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.