The way grace plays out in our lives in one of the most remarkable and mysterious things about a life of faith. For the most part, we don't see grace in the everyday minutiae of our lives. We often don't see grace in the larger events of life like loss and tragedy. This is why faith can be so difficult; to live and to preach to others. Because grace plays out on an almost invisible plane, not one that is quantifiable or observable.
Living a life of faith means that we may not know God's path for us in its wholeness at any one time. We may know our vocation, but not understand the obstacles that are placed in our way. We may be given people to love who only hurt us in return. We may feel futile and useless as we try to minister to others around us. Or maybe we are unable to do anything other than keep our own souls afloat in the spiritual life. This happens at times to all of us who practice the faith, we all experience many times of unknowing and what feels like precious little grace.
I think the easiest place for us to realize or see grace is in perspective. Just like St. Paul, we can look back over our lives and see the hidden hand of God's grace directing or prodding or maybe even denying. Slowly over months or years, we see what God was planning, devising, giving us. But how difficult was slogging through those tough, lean years of grace. How tight was our clutch on our slim piece of faith.
I know I often fall into the idealistic trap of believing faith should be easy; grace should be easy. Faith may have come to St. Paul in the form of being knocked off a horse and given a vision of Christ, but he was blinded, he spent years in the wilderness cultivating his relationship with God, he was persecuted just as he had persecuted.
It wasn't easy for St. Paul to preach the Gospel, but by God's grace he did.
So too it was not easy for the woman to bring her tears and ointment to Christ's feet. Her faith was great, but it must have been humiliating to push her way through the Pharisees to Jesus, her sorrows and burdens must have been deep and heavy. Her act of faith was immense, her whole heart given to love of Jesus and so a wealth of grace was given to her, her sins washed away.
Faith and grace go hand in hand. God recognizes our faith even when we feel we have very little. For our small acts of faith, Christ can change us immeasurably through his grace.
St. Paul knew God's grace as he changed from a life a violence to a life of preaching. The woman with her alabaster jar brought her tears and sorrows to the feet of Jesus and walked away forgiven. God's grace will keep us going, it will not be insufficient even if our faith is, and it will make us who we are meant to be.
Christy Isinger is the mom to five lovely, loud children living in the Canadian wilds. You can find out more about her here.