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“If you guys ever stop doing this,” she began, “I just don’t know what I’ll do.” The first time Lisa shared this sentiment with me on a Thursday night at dinner, I took it as an offhanded and positive comment—the equivalent of saying “thank you,” or “I really appreciate it.” But, it was a busy night; I had several other folks I needed to check on. Not to mention, at our back door was a person with a load of groceries they wanted to give to Grace and Main to confront hunger downtown. I needed to receive this donation with much gratitude, not only because we depend upon the generosity of many to do what we do but also because it was coming at just the right time. Plus, we wouldn’t start eating until I could stop and break bread with our house full of people. So, I thanked Lisa for her kind words, gave her a quick hug, and told her that we were glad she was here as I started to make my way to the back door.
But, Lisa grabbed me by the hand and with a gentle smile on her beloved face she stopped me. She continued, “I mean it. What y’all are doing is a beautiful thing and it gives me hope for the world and the Church.” Her sincerity was underlined by the insistence in her eyes and the loving squeeze she gave my trapped hand as she reiterated her gratitude to me. Looking over my shoulder, I noticed that another one of our leaders was receiving the groceries with a joyful heart and praise to our Lord who meets needs. Looking then to my wife who has the Sisyphean task of keeping us on schedule, she seemed to know instantly that I was wondering if somebody else could get the elements of our bread and cup together and break them for our little gathering of Jesus’ friends and servants. She nodded to me and handed the plate and chalice to another leader.
So, I turned my attention back to Lisa as she poured out her heart to me. So much was going wrong in her life and she was so frightened of how the next few weeks might go. She was separated from her husband, she had a new medical concern, she was overwhelmed with anxiety at this house full of people, but she wanted me to know that she would keep coming because she couldn’t do without this simple meal. Offhandedly, I joked, “Oh, is the food that good?”
She chuckled a bit but then she looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “It’s good, but I would come if it wasn’t. I’m here because y’all treat me like something more than the rest of the world. Y’all treat me like I can be something or do something. Y’all love me.”
Months later, Lisa was an active and essential part of our gatherings. She’d faithfully bring her prayers to us and we would cherish her concerns and the wounds she would share with us. Lisa lives in one of the neighborhoods downtown that we think of as one of our “beloved” neighborhoods. Drug dealers prowl those sidewalks looking for those whom they might prey upon and who might already be their thralls. Lisa kept asking us to pray for her because she felt called to do something about her neighborhood and its bondage. We kept praying with her, eating with her, worshiping with her, studying with her, and spending time with her near her home. Soon, Lisa was confronting the dealers who came around her complex. When we asked her if she thought what she was doing was safe, she said, “Probably not. But I can be radical too, you know.” So we joined her not only with our prayers but with our presence.
Nowadays, Lisa is one of our leaders and attends with her husband with whom she has reconciled. He is slowly becoming one of our leaders, as well, and he has a talent for speaking to the incredible power of love to change lives in spite of resistance—because, by his own admission, it was Lisa’s love that brought him to our doors and our love that showed him Jesus’ love. Several months ago, she repeated herself: “If we ever stop doing this,” she began, “I just don’t know what I’ll do.”
Noticing that she had started to think of herself and her husband as being a part of Grace and Main, I smiled and remarked, “Me neither, Lisa. But I don’t think there’s any danger of that happening. We can be radical too, after all.”
But isn’t that the truth for you, too? What makes Lisa a radical is that she believes that lives can truly be changed by healthy and genuine relationships–that God is busy changing and healing this world through people like you, Lisa, and me. That’s a pretty radical notion, but I find that I like it. After all, isn’t this what Jesus told us would happen if we turned our lives over to him? That we’d find new lives through the death of our old lives? That we’d be remade and reformed–no longer fit for hell (on earth or hereafter), but given over to heaven (hereafter and starting now)? It turns out that what we might need more than any sermon or church growth program is enough radicals who believe that love really is enough. So, how about you? What do you believe?