“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
I’ve often wondered about the origin of that phrase. I finally looked it up. If the online presence of “Britannia: America’s Gateway to the British Isles Since 1996” is to be believed, the phrase was uttered by one John Bradford.
Bradford was ordained as a Protestant ‘roving chaplain’ during the reign of Edward the 6th. According to Britannia, he was “often referred to as ‘holy Bradford’ not in derision, but from respect to his unselfish service to God and those around him.” After Edward’s death, Mary Tudor came to power and zealously campaigned to resurrect Roman Catholicism and to rid the empire of “heretics.” Bradford, of course, was one such heretic who would be made a martyr.
Before he was burned at the stake on January 31, 1555, Bradford had occasion to see other men led toward their execution. It is said that, upon seeing those condemned men walking by, he said, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
While the phrase may well have its origins based firmly in religion, today it is simply an acknowledgement that bad luck or being in the wrong place at the wrong time or coincidence or whatever you choose to call it can wreak havoc on one’s life. It behooves me to understand that I am truly fortunate.
Good fortune is not a guarantee.