Thursday, July 25, 2024
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Bright Shining: How Grace Changes Everything

Bright Shining: How Grace Changes Everything
Julia Baird
Fourth Estate, 2023

The premise of Bright Shining is both profound and simple – grace is everywhere and we are enriched by it as individuals and as a community when we are receptive to its power and beauty.

In our frail, broken humanity, there are many factors that impede our acceptance of this benevolence.

There are people who have gone through the worst experiences of violence, humiliation, exploitation and loss at the hands of others and those who have perpetrated these acts. Some of these persecutions have been institutionalised, and carried out over decades while abusers have been protected and endorsed while victims have been vilified and burdened with guilt, shame and the expectation of forgiveness.

Taking its title from the world’s most popular hymn, Baird discusses the idea of grace, mercy and forgiveness in religious and secular contexts, writing that grace goes beyond kindness, goodness or empathy, but definitely has elements of all of the above. She stresses how challenging it can be, how harrowing and how transformative.

Baird discusses those who are motivated to perform acts of service to others, such as committed blood donors and health professionals during the Covid crisis who filled gloves with warm water so that patients could feel like someone was holding their hand when they were most isolated.

She describes how the experience of an enriched life can be passed on in our DNA in the same way that trauma can and how release from anger has been found for some through restorative justice.

One of the strongest themes of Baird’s writing is the importance of the natural environment, being nurtured by the Elders of the Ningaloo Reserve in WA and being welcomed to Country, and how this outpouring of grace sustains her through her own health crises.

Julia Baird, with her usual compassion, wit and clarity, details the many facets of grace and how it is a rare and remarkable attribute requiring courage and strength. Bright Shining is deeply moving, inspiring and as the title suggests, illuminating.

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