paradox of grace.

I’ve been thinking lately about how odd grace can be—how odd it often is, in fact.

I think I know by now that it does not compute, at least to us—if it made perfect sense, if there was always a 1:1 ratio, a traceable reciprocity, it might not even be grace.

(And maybe the wonderful thing about it is the mystery, the very fact that we cannot examine its entirety cupped in our hands.)

Grace doesn’t make sense, thankfully so. It is what makes salvation possible for the most wretched, even me. Against the odds, the darkness that seemed so complete, so pervasive, is redeemed.

But sometimes, it’s just weird.

Sometimes, pigs can be a source of prophecy.

OK, OK, that’s a little out of context, and the Flannery O’Connor story I’m thinking of doesn’t have pink things squealing “Thus saith the LORD”s, exactly.

But her character Mrs. Turpin is convicted by the sight of pigs, prompted to call out to the heavens like a Biblical character herself, probably for the first time. By the end, there are crickets chirping hallelujah.

And then, there is that alcoholic priest in Greene’s Power and the Glory—who offers Eucharist with wayward hands. It is an image I cannot shake; at once it makes me cringe and gives me hope.

And it is odd, so very strange, that a King should come as an infant, that He should lay His head against straw, that His audience should be a smattering of shepherds.

That He should even become man at all.

I wonder if we lose something big if we miss the strangeness of this story in particular.

For one thing, we forget to make the transfer from this story to ours. We miss daily offering cloaked in oddity. We cease to expect it.

When we miss the arresting strangeness of the Incarnation, we miss the possibility of the incarnate in the strange.

I mean this both in the receiving and the giving—we may lose a certain kind of vision, as well as a certain kind of action; we are blind to its manifestation as well as the ways we might make it manifest.

Perhaps the most gracious gift to give is a pack of cigarettes.

Perhaps counting calories can confer a striking lesson about spiritual discipline.

Perhaps the song on the radio you hate can impart a sort of wisdom.

Perhaps there is a beautiful image of sacrificial love embedded in the functional dysfunction of a divorced couple giving each other their time, their talents, even their resources and roof.

Perhaps the most perfect confirmation of journey and change can come through a random run-in with a stranger at a wedding, states away from home.

Perhaps friendships can be formed in the most unlikely of places.

Perhaps at the moment we admit possibility in paradox, we discover how present His Presence is.

There is more to this, I think. More, because I do not know all the manifold ways in which grace may be strange. I have tidbits, whispers, moments where all I can do is shrug, and hopefully laugh and give thanks.

I’m wondering, what strange graces have arrested you, lately or otherwise?