By Deborah Coty

Good match.

Nice slice.

I hate your stinkin’ guts.

Which of these would you not expect to hear while shaking hands across the tennis net at the end of a match?

Well, I’ve heard ’em all. Although the last was supposedly tongue-in-cheek, I suspect there was hidden truth there. Losing sometimes clogs our spirits with nasty. Whatever graciousness might usually reside there is thrown under the bus of frustration. Especially in sports. We’re angry because we/our team/our kid didn’t dominate. So anything goes. Let ‘er rip. Diplomacy be hanged.

So imagine my surprise when, at the end of a league match a few weeks ago, my opponent (who lost) did something completely unexpected.

I still can hardly believe it. Are you ready?

She gave me her shoes. Her shoes. 

Yep. She shook my hand, asked my shoe size, then handed me the $80 Nike’s she’d only worn once.”Try them on,” she said, mopping her sweaty brow. “They don’t fit me right. If you like them, they’re yours.”

I back-pedaled big time, boy. She’d been a tough, no-nonsense competitor and I was all ready to dislike her. Then she sucked the wind right out of my sails. She took me so by surprise, I couldn’t seem to put a cohesive sentence together.

Sputtering nonsense, I plunked down, tried on the perfectly fitting shoes and watched her walk away barefoot. I was totally reeling the rest of the day. Why in the world would someone be that nice?

Radical grace knocked me upside the head. And made me think. Why is extending grace to someone you don’t know or even like so shocking? Especially for emulators of Jesus. He was the epitome of grace in forgiving his own executioners; aren’t we supposed to be becoming more like Him?

Or more precisely, aren’t I supposed to be becoming more like Him?

I love my new tennies. I think about that incredibly gracious gal every time I wear them. And they remind me to be radical. 

“God’s grace has set us free.” (Romans 6:15, NLT)