I recently have had the opportunity to exercise Mercy.
You know what that means, right? I’ve been hurt. I’ve been wronged. I’ve felt the sting of betrayal. I’ve experienced disappointment.
… you’ve been there before too, haven’t you? Haven’t we all?
I was training new employees yesterday morning and I heard myself say, “Anger is a secondary emotion. Its the easier one. Its the one that gives us a release…..” I thought for a moment and had to add, “And honestly? Sometimes it feels good.”
Doesn’t it? We are all friends here, so let’s just be real. It does.
Living in a fallen world, interacting with fallen people… we all probably could’ve written from experience the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”… so anger? Its not really an option. Its not. From time to time you and I are going to get angry. Sometimes our anger might even be justified…the betrayal might not be just our perception.
We are all going to be angry at some point; what matters is how we handle that anger. If we give ourselves a license for revenge or bitterness or hatred, that will we also reap. But if we recognize that ground soaked in hurt feelings is also the breeding ground of character, who knows what good sprouts might just pop out of the ground…
Easier said than done; easier written on a page than practiced in everyday life with our everyday stresses and everyday humans. Am I right or am I right?
So I had the opportunity to exercise Mercy… and I sat and stared in her in the face for a few days. I studied the softness in her eyes and inviting as it was, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the authority of justice.
Imagine me in cartoon version with Mercy hanging out on one shoulder, pleading to me with her sing-songy voice and Justice on the other, holding an account of the facts and you’ll have it about right.
I can’t think of another time in my life when a decision of how to handle something was so clear cut… or when I had days to really sit and ponder the kind of path I wanted to head down….
In the end, it came down to what kind of person I want to be. My mom famously says ‘your life is the sum total of a lot of small decisions’. I am sure someone else famously said it before her, but its her voice I hear in my head when I consider a fork in the road.
Justice is my natural bent. I am a warm person, but quite blunt. I don’t like to mince words or beat around the bush. I am probably most articulate when I am riled up (a gift and curse). In theory or philosophy the lines are blurred for me, but when it comes down to actions of right or wrong, black and white are easily defined.
Justice and Mercy both are of God…each has a time and place. The thing I love and hate about being a Christ-follower is that there are no hard and fast rules. Its not ‘in situation A, God requires Mercy and in situation B, God requires Justice’… instead it is a necessity to be in close communion with our God- ears pressed to His heart, following His will in each moment.
I found myself awake at night, trying desperately to do just that… and when the sounds of life were finally drowned out, I could hear the song of Mercy were wooing me to Righteousness.
I stumbled my way through it, kicking bitterness off of my heels nearly every step of the way. There were moments of Mercy that flowed out of me with complete sincerity and others that I fought to even allow. Ever heard the Sara Groves song “The Boxer”? If not, go download it. You’ll get the picture.
This morning the Lord brought a verse to mind from Hosea. I ended up looking it up in several different translations and thought you all might enjoy what I discovered… (BibleGateway is great for that)
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (NIV)
“For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings.” (Amplified Bible)
Thinking back on the whole of my life, I can tell you what what I have prefered… sacrifice…and the kind of sacrifices I think up myself. Too often, I’ve prefered to give up something or do some good on my own terms, rather than to be merciful… rather than treating love and goodness like an important duty. Too often I’ve prefered to ‘serve’ God than to be acquainted with Him at a level of dependence.
Growth and character and the delight of God don’t come from me thinking up ways to do things for Him all the while avoiding His call for submission… instead, character sprouts up from the hard ground of following God right into the middle of the kind of obedience that suffocates the appetites of the flesh.
I pray for Christ to be formed in me… and after years of being a Believer, I am just starting to get a grip on how much dying to myself that is going to require.