The grace of God is only a pretty theory

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Columnist

Ah, the grace of God is a fine concept in theory. And that, I’m afraid, is exactly the way it stays in the lives of many people for a very long time. A concept. A theory. But to catch even a glimpse of its beautiful and unfathomable reality is to realize that grace is not just a concept: It is the very breath of life, the lifeline that keeps us from dropping into the abyss, the life jacket that buoys us up and saves us from certain drowning.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid the only way to really taste God’s grace as something more than theory is: a) to foul up very badly, and b) to know that you have.

Oh, you and I know lots of Christians who claim to believe in God’s grace. Most of them really think they do. Why argue the point? You might as well try to explain to a fish what it’s like to be really dry. You can’t do it. Almost all Christians genuinely think they already are trusting in grace. And I believe them. They probably are trusting in God’s grace as much as anyone can who has never really butted his head very hard against the wall of life and his own sinfulness.

A pilot can know all about parachutes, but I doubt he can really know about them in living color and fullblown reality until he’s had to hit the silk when his plane was spiraling downward and he knows for sure that he would have been a deadster without one. To extend the metaphor, I suspect that it’s almost inevitable that a pilot who has never crashed is deep-down sure he’s a better pilot than one who has (no matter what the accident investigation board may say about what caused the crash).

We all know that some bad pilots crash. But what good pilots probably have a very difficult time believing is that some good ones crash, too, and that if they themselves had been in command, the marriage, the business, the life task or dream would still have gone down and maybe even more quickly. It just could be, in theory, that the pilot who crashed was better than they themselves. But I doubt most are able to believe that. Not until they crash. Then, if they survive, they are a lot more humble, a lot more thankful for parachutes, and probably much better pilots.

The difference between pilots and all of us just living this life is that all humans crash. It’s a hard truth, but God’s grace remains just a pretty theory until we fail very badly and know that we’ve failed. We will. We have. But lots of us haven’t hit the ground hard enough or obviously enough yet to know that we’re just like, exactly like, all of God’s other children. We live completely by, only by, God’s parachute.

Did I say parachute? I mean, God’s grace.