Radical Grace


“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
― Albert Schweitzer ―


I’ve tried to run on ephemeral moments.

The grace of quickenings, that warms like a sunshine river when I finally see another piece of who Jesus is, a surge of feeling.

Elusive, yet they come often enough to make me hungry for more, this grace that whets but doesn’t fill.

Glimpsing Jesus in snatches and shadows, instead of full on and on and always.

But I’m thirsty for living grace, the light that stays instead of merely flashing from time to time.

Grace that comes flooding and pouring until I’m drenched in it.

Grace blue as ocean, that will soak me to my skin.

Grace green as jade mountains, that will pick me up like eagle wings tracing the backs of verdant ranges.

Grace red as blood and fire, as potent as hot white light.

Silly me, I think it will come on the brink of a rescue mission. If I cradle enough ragged orphans, wipe enough tears from eyes of girls who’ve been sold like bread, ladle enough bowls of chowder at a soup kitchen, then. Then, maybe, the real grace for living will set in. There, perhaps, I can find Jesus at last.

Isn’t He there? Isn’t He walking in the streets and going where hunger is a plague and filling souls in far-off alleys?

For being the God who never leaves, why is it that He’s there instead of here?

Give me a moment to pack my bag. Ministry I can do. I can put a Bible and a journal and maybe a change a clothes in a suitcase and I’ll bet set, Lord. Then can I have You for real? For keeps?

Because this rising and eating and working and sleeping is wearing thin. This shoulder-brushing with a family of very different souls and jogging this normal hamster-wheel life is hiding Your face.

Isn’t it?

Ah, silly girl that I am.

You’ve been telling me the truth all this time. My life’s been singing the lyrics, but I haven’t dared to sing along. I’ve been blind and deaf and dumb.

She told me first, leaning on a rake, teaching me You just like she’s taught me phonics and egg-scrambling and how blush is best applied. With ears covered and hands gloved, we both dumped leaves into a roaring mulcher, and this mother of mine reminded me that home is my first ministry.

The hearing of it bit me enough that I knew I needed to ponder on it a little more. When what used to be obvious comes as a heavy hand on the shoulder, that merits some thought.

You sent your message again, wireless, in the life of a friend. Artist of words, she didn’t need any to paint this canvas. Her life breathed the watercolors and her obedience drew the lines dark and mystical. Her laughter with her younger siblings, all their tea parties and book readings and lovely, childish, joy-breathed fingerpainting and shades of adventure–these brushed me a tale that goes on speaking to my heart. I told her she’s the best sister ever. I don’t think she believed me.

But, here’s the truth I’ve wandered into:

The real grace, the real Christ, the real living is not Out There.

Jesus is Right Here, now.

And His call is to things I never dreamed.

I made Him bacon and eggs and toast and a tropical monsoon smoothie this morning. I wish I could remember every morning to make Him breakfast. Usually I just make food for me, or for my family. But making it for Him was all the difference. For a moment, it was a love-gift for my Jesus, not a platter of brunch for a farm hand.

You think I’m going to tell you that you can do dishes to the glory of God, don’t you? You’re bracing for it.

Well, I’m not, not exactly.

I’m going to tell you that if you can’t do dishes to the glory of God, what on earth can you do for Him?

Wash leper feet? Learn Tamil? Why don’t you go to Africa and evangelize the pygmies. Maybe they won’t have dishes.

Friend, friend, do you see our loveless power? Do you see the light on our bright, clanging symbols, hear its painful clamor against your eardrums?

Not you. Not just you. Me too.

I’ve risen mornings and lusted for calendar pages full of crisis pregnancy center counseling and prison ministry and tract evangelism. You might frown at the word lust. But trust me. Some are called to serve in all those ways. Right now, I’m not, but wanted to be.

That word-art friend? She sent me an e-mail, linking to an article called “How Ephesians Killed My ‘Radical’ Christianity.” Oh my. That was a concerning title. At that point, my heresy buzzer would have been in full blare except that I have a large amount of respect for this friend’s taste in articles. And, having also a mischievous streak that likes to be startling when at all appropriate, I delved right in.

And, lo and behold, God had done it again, turned me around another corner into stark truth.

The author’s point?

We don’t really want to live the kind of radical that God requires. We think extraordinary grace comes by doing the extraordinary, adventurous, Everest-height jobs.

Extraordinary grace, though, actually flows in the unworthy and baptizes the commonplace. Extraordinary grace is magnified by and in the ordinary.

Because what we call Ordinary is not easy. Ordinary is not–at least, at a glimpse– fun. Ordinary is no challenge to live, but to live it well?

That takes power indeed.

You and I face our greatest tests–not in the mission field or during our volunteering, but here, in the Ordinary.

In the unmasked mess of living, when clutter and no makeup and cranky sewer lines and crying kids can’t be locked out or left at an office, that’s where grace lives.

The Real Radical, the Real Grace, is not in embracing the things you want to run toward, but in learning to love the things you want to run away from.

Christianity is not being a re-packaged superhero.

Christianity is being a reborn Christ-imitator.

Your call is probably not to be the next Mother Teresa.

But your call might be to sister a handful of God-made souls.

You asked to go serve in a soup kitchen?

Serve some soup in your kitchen, to those people you see every day and don’t love desperately enough.

Smiles to strangers are great. But how much does it cost?

Smiles cost when you’re tired and that baby’s still screaming murder….or the rice cascades from the pantry into a nice thick layer on the linoleum….or when you are sure that there is not another question in the whole wide world left for that younger brother to ask.

I’m so hungry for Jesus. I’m so desperate for grace to swoop in and love to come cascading like a unleashed river.

Let’s do something Radical.

Let’s love the people God gave us more than we’ve ever loved them before.

Ordinary, isn’t it? Only in the most extraordinary way.

“So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

– John 13:12-17 NKJV, emphasis mine –

Thank you, George Hodan and Public Domain Pictures, for this photo.





2 thoughts on “Radical Grace

  1. Shelbie your writing continues to become more eloquent and profound. Thank you for sharing what our Lord Jesus is teaching you in His word. Mrs. Shiflet, who misses your sweet smiles and laughter!

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