In those days, hard, nonporous contact lenses were all they had. Usually they were the size of fish scales. Mine were not any broader in circumference but they were still as thick as miniature coke bottle bottoms and nearly as heavy on my eyes. Most people who wore normal lenses could only tolerate them for six to eight hours. Now add a cornea shaped like the end of a football, a corrugated football at that, and these things were not meant to be comfortable on my eyes, certainly not for the 16-18 hours a day I had to wear them.
So why did I do it? My prescription was +17.25. The doctor told me there was no number on the chart for my vision. (“Chart? What chart? I don’t see any chart.”) He said if there were, it would be something like 20/10,000, a hyperbole I am sure, but it certainly made the point. Hard contacts were my only hope. If they could stabilize my eyesight, I would last a bit longer. When I was 20, another doctor told me I would certainly have been totally blind by then if not for those contact lenses.
Then soft contact lenses were invented and their popularity grew. But they were not for me. They would not have stabilized my vision. I lost count of the number of times people who wore soft lenses said to me, “I tried those hard ones, but I just could not tolerate them. You are so lucky you can wear them.”
Luck had nothing to do with it. My young doctor was smart. He sat me down and said, “The only way you will be able to do this with these eyes is to really want to. You must make up your mind that you will do it no matter what.” That was quite a burden to place on a fourteen year old, but his tactics worked. Despite the discomfort, I managed, and managed so well that most people never knew how uncomfortable I was. Finally, when what seemed like the 1000th person told me they just could not tolerate hard lenses, I said, “You didn’t need them badly enough.” Most of us can do much more than we ever thought possible when we really have to.
Need is a strong motivation. A couple of thousand years ago, it motivated a woman to go where she was not expected, normally not even allowed, and certainly not wanted.
Simon the Pharisee decided to have Jesus for dinner. I read that it was the custom of the day for the leading Pharisee in the town to have the distinguished rabbi over for a meal when he sojourned there. While the man would invite his friends to eat the meal, an open door policy made it possible for any interested party to come in and stand along the wall to listen--any interested man, that is. Of course, it was assumed that only righteous men would be interested.
In walked a “sinful” woman. Luke, in chapter 7, uses a word that does not in itself imply any specific sin, but it was commonly used by that society to refer to what they considered the lowest of sinners, publicans and harlots. The mere fact that she was a woman also caused someone in the crowd to exclaim, “Look! A woman!” in what we assume was horrified shock.
The men were all lying around a low table with their bodies resting on a couch and their feet turned away from the table in the direction of the wall, while their left elbows rested on the table. The woman came into the room, walked around the wall, and began crying over Jesus’ feet. Immediately, she knelt to wipe his feet with her hair. I am told that this too was unacceptable. “To unbind and loosen the hair in public before strangers was considered disgraceful and indecent for a woman,” commentator Lenski says. We later discover that these were dirty, dusty feet from walking unpaved roads in sandals. How do we know? Because Simon did not even offer Jesus the customary hospitable foot washing.
Then she took an alabaster cruse of ointment, a costly gift, and anointed his feet—not just a token drop or two, but the entire contents--once the cruse was broken open, it was useless as a storage container.
What did Simon do? Nothing outward, but Jesus knew what he thought, and told him a story.
One man owed a lender 500 shillings, and another owed him 50. Both were forgiven their debts when they could not pay. Who, Jesus asked him, do you think was the most grateful? The one who owed the most, of course, Simon easily answered.
And so by using his own prejudices against him, Jesus proved that Simon himself was less grateful to God than this sinful woman. His own actions, or lack thereof toward Jesus was the proof. This man, like so many others of his party, was completely satisfied with himself and where he stood before God. And that satisfaction blinded him to his own need, for truly no one can stand before God in his own righteousness. His gratitude suffered because he did not feel his need. Would he have gone into a hostile environment and lowered himself to do the most menial work a servant could do, and that in front of others? Hardly.
So how much do I think I need the grace of God? The answer is the same one to how far I will go to get it, how much I will sacrifice to receive it, and how much pain I will put up with for even the smallest amount to touch my life. Am I a self-satisfied Simon the Pharisee, more concerned with respectability than with his own need for forgiveness, or a sinful woman, who probably took the deepest breath of her life and walked into a room full of hostile men because she knew it was her only chance at Life?
And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon, See this woman? I entered into your house; you gave me no water for my feet: but she has wet my feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil you did not anoint: but she has anointed my feet with ointment. So I say unto you, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, loves little. And he said unto her, Your sins are forgiven… Your faith has saved you; go in peace, Luke 7:44-48,50.