I've been rereading What's so Amazing about Grace by one of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey.
He reminds me that the root word for grace in Greek means "I rejoice. I am glad" and that we receive grace as a pure gift, not something that is earned.
I grew up as a military brat and as a Roman Catholic girl child in the 1950s--two very powerful authoritarian environments where you were expected to "earn" your way--and where "rank hath its privileges" whether it was a military rank or an episcopal rank.
But really, when you think about it, isn't the entire American culture rank conscious?
It has taken a looooong time to understand what Jesus was talking about: that Grace exists and comes to us as pure gift. We do not earn it. It often enters our lives as serendipity. Or as hope--"that thing with feathers" as Emily Dickinson said.
I think the Creator reminds us of the existence of grace whenever we walk into nature and see the wild and wondrous colors assigned to flowers, fish, and fowl...and the almost infinite variety in the shape of leaves and insects. It's as if the message is shouted: "Look! Look at this incredible world I have bequeathed you. Rejoice and be glad!"
All we must do is open our eyes so we can see. So we can see the many gifts of Grace that come our way every single day.