Many of us are familiar with the Caravaggio painting of St. Paul and his Damascus Road experience. The contrast of light and dark. Paul flat on his back with outstretched arms of submission and surrender. The other man, either unaware or uncertain as to what is going on. The plodding, slow moving, unperplexed horse, simply stepping over Paul. It is a striking image of conversion and change. Lost and found. A “Damascus Road experience” along with the painting by Caravaggio have both travelled with us, so that often when we think about the story of Paul’s conversion, this image and idea immediately pops into our mind.
Of course, there is more to the story of conversion. Though some identify with this sudden, immediate transformation, others may have experienced conversion as a subtle, gradual process of change. One thing is certain. Grace plays a key role and is oftentimes a hidden dynamic in opening us to the presence of God. Grace is hard to picture, much less paint.
The biblical account of the “Damascus Road experience” most of us are familiar with is the story written by Luke, chapter nine in the Book of Acts. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians and to the Corinthians however, writes in his own words how grace made it possible for him turn his life around from persecuting to promoting the Gospel and life in Christ. In fact, Paul found grace to be so important, decisive, and pivotal, that he wrote about hearing these sustaining words from Jesus, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Grace is sufficient. Grace is all we need when it comes to change. Grace alone has the power to catch our attention, to help us take a deep breath, to think twice before we take the next step. In other words, grace can stop us in our tracks.
But that is not all. Grace partners with us. Grace begins the process of change. For some, like Paul, it is sudden one-eighty-degree turnaround. For others, it is more like moving an oil-tanker one-degree at a time. Point being, grace is sufficient to get us going in the right direction. More importantly, grace gives us the courage to do what we normally are unable to do on our own. And grace reveals Jesus to us at just the right time and just the right place in our lives.
Grace is a gift given to us by a loving God. I guess it is possible to imagine a life without grace. What I have learned is a life without grace is less of life. I believe, life with grace provides with more of a life, in fact, Jesus refers to this as an “abundant life.” An abundant life is not about having the most toys, or in the end winning, but it is about life with God—right now.
Thanks to God, such a life of grace is made available, held out, within reach, of each and everyone of us whether we are walking down the Damascus Road, or simply taking the next step in our journey of faith. Be assured of these words from Jesus, “my grace is sufficient for you.”