In the broadest sense, grace means that Spiritual Presence is a given in human existence; it cannot be produced through human endeavor. Grace in Christian theology is understood as the present and future gift of God's favor, the universal and timeless offer of God's love into eternity, the power to change, and a participation in divine life here and now. Grace assists persons in meeting the challenges of growth that are part of each season of one's life. Each person bears the responsibility to shape his or her moral destiny, a destiny necessarily intertwined with others and the earth, even the cosmos, as the home humans share. Grace is the ever-available gift of God that holds the spiritual key to support human beings in transcending the flawed and very human tendencies toward self-absorption, selfishness, estrangement, domination, and hardness of heart. The painful realities of life do not always reflect the life God intended for humans in creation. In spite of the "fallenness" of the human condition, grace is given gratuitously; one doesn't need to "merit" it but rather to choose it.
The presence of grace is an essential ingredient in spiritual conversion. Without its reality and activity the deepest desires of the human soul and spirit for wholeness and inner and outer peace might not prevail against the forces that often overwhelm a person and lure them in a death-dealing, sinful, and damaging direction. Precisely because grace builds on nature and requires the exercise of personal freedom, a person can choose to change patterns of hurtful, destructive living and embrace, through grace, access to greater healing and new directions in living. Grace is not given to make up for something essentially lacking in human nature but is given as a free gift that is offered to widen and deepen access to human flourishing in the midst of the reality of human frailty.
The reality of grace means that God never ceases to give of God self to humans if people choose to be receptive. Openness to receiving the power and tenderness of grace can result in the ability to experience the change of mind and heart known as spiritual conversion. The ever-abundant presence of the ongoing gift of God's life, grace, is available in and through the actual and ordinary experiences of daily living. The time of grace is always at hand. All humans participate in God's life here and now to the degree that each freely and consciously chooses to engage the reality of the divine in humans' midst. Humans possess the divine spark-imago dei-residing in the human soul. Grace is God's free and enduring gift to enable each person to fully become the image of God that is already stamped into the essence of each human being. Informed by the work of Robert Coles (1991) and others, we are now much more aware of the vibrancy of the spiritual life of children and their unique quest to relate to a God of their experience. Adolescence reflects a prime developmental season where youth seek to claim for themselves a more personal and autonomous appropriation of meaning in life. This means that the task of self-realization, facing the responsibilities for one's own life-whether one is 8, 18, or 80 years of age-is challenging and cannot be avoided in any phase of life. Yet in spite of all the obstacles that enter the human experience that threaten one's growth to maturity in freedom, grace abounds.