Saturday, October 4, 2014

It Said . . . There, but for the grace of God, go I

Holy Bradford was his name and he was born in 1510. His family named him John, but his college friends called him Holy – not because he was sanctimonious and smug, but because he was humble and kind. It is said he kept a list of his faults to remind him of what he needed to repent of when he prayed but he was quick to find the virtues in others. Always he remembered the grace of God.

It is written that when John Bradford saw a group of evil-doers taken to their place of execution, he said, “But for the grace of God there goes John Bradford.” Whether he meant that God had given him opportunity to find a better path so he was not one of the evil-doers, or that God had protected him so that he wasn’t on his way to execution, I don’t know. Either perception seems valid. All I know is I remember when I first heard reference to the phrase. A good friend said it about another friend who had been ensnared in poor conduct. He quietly said, “There but for the grace of God go I.” He said it with a weight of non-judgment. Recognizing that his friend had done wrong and that he would have many unpleasant consequences ahead, but that his role would be to lift and encourage him as he lived through the consequences.

That phrase has come to mind many times since in various situations. Like a bell, it dings with a reminder of gratitude and dongs with a responsibility to lift rather than condemn.

Today I heard the phrase repeated in a message in the LDS General Conference. I didn’t know where the phrase originated so I looked it up and I’m glad I did. I found that John Bradford was eventually burned at the stake for his religious beliefs, and before they lit the fire he asked for forgiveness from those who he had wronged, and offered forgiveness to those who had wronged him. Then he turned to the young man who was staked with him and said, “Be of good comfort brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night.”

Reading John Bradford’s example gave his words even more clout. May it ring often in my head.

(This post is part of a 31 Day Writing Challenge hosted by Myquillyn Smith  To see other posts in the series, click here)


melanie said...

I love this. Thank you.

Lucy said...

I loved Elder Holland’s talk. I love all of his talks. And I love your blogs:) I am a descendent of William Bradford, I wonder of this Bradford is an ancestor of his? Thanks for the history and morality lesson.