blessings for healing: mercy

Camellia buds.

I noticed them yesterday, and I can’t wait for them to open. But I won’t be able to see them out my bedroom window like I almost could last year.

Because Dave thought the camellia was the bush I was referring to when I said, “That bush is ugly, and now I can see it through the bedroom window.”

Unfortunately, we have three bedroom windows . . .

He was so pleased to surprise me with cutting back the offensive bush — and then so crushed by his terrible mistake. Camellias remind me it’s actually spring when for all the world there is no difference in the weather here from winter to July.  I had waited three years for the rosy red flowers to grow that last foot to the window so I could see them from inside the house. I cried — a little.

But the sudden flash of memory of To Kill a Mockingbird and Jem with Scout’s baton whacking away at budding camellias in a blind fury made me laugh. For some reason, I had always pictured a hydrangea as the recipient of rage.  But hydrangeas grow back to their full height, even if you cut them all the way to the ground. Camellias do not. They are slow. And I suddenly understood how Jem whacking the tops off the camellias really was “getting back” at Mrs. Dubose.

So, I point out the camellia buds and Dave apologizes again and we laugh and I remember how I accidentally broke the top of his convertible when we were dating . . .

We’re celebrating our 21st anniversary. And we’ve been through so much worse than these mistakes.

* * * * *

A picture of mercy rests comfortably in my mind.

A man, beaten by robbers, lays by the side of the road . . .  a foreign stranger rescues him while the poor man’s own countrymen pass him by. I feel compassion toward the wounded, desperate man. After all, he was a victim. It was nothing he did. He was attacked.

I would like mercy to stay there. To be that. I can muster that sort of mercy.

But there are other pictures of mercy. . .

A servant, deep in a debt he can’t repay begs mercy of his master, and the master graciously forgives every penny. But when a fellow servant owes the newly-debt-free servant a small amount of money, instead of forgiving (as he has been forgiven), he throws the man in prison.

This is harder. As much as I don’t want to be the wicked servant in theory, I am, too often, in practice . . . but I can follow this, too.  Do unto others . . .

* * * * *

Sometimes, I think it is a miracle that he is still married to me.

I have been so exacting. So critical. So judgmental. So reminding. So merciless. And so very, very right.

I have wanted to draw a line in the sand and make my case. To say, Teacher, did you not see what he did?  He’s an addict. He lied. He stole. He broke my heart.

But I can’t draw that line. Because Jesus already did.

There was a woman, caught in the act of a sin — punishable by death by stoning, according to the laws given by God to Moses. And the people came to Jesus, ready, with the stones in their hands.

We don’t know what Jesus wrote in the sand. But when he finally looked up, everyone was gone except the woman.

. . . He never told them they were wrong. How did I miss that? What He said was, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I read this story in a book at a time when I needed very much to hear it:

I wonder whether, when these teachers of the law first signed up as young men to devote themselves to a life of service, they had warm hearts for God and for others. Weren’t they in fact motivated by love? But over time, something had happened. All their learning about Scripture filled them with pride. All their efforts at obedience filled them with disdain for the less devout. All their giftedness filled them with impatience toward those who were weaker. . . and they became as enslaved by a cold heart as an addict can become enslaved by crack cocaine… at least with the sins of the flesh, you find out you have messed up. With the sins of the spirit, you may not even know. You just walk through life with a stone in your hand: judgmental thoughts, a superior attitude, impatient words, bitter resentments. — John Ortberg

They were right, you know. The people. Right about the rules.

And there is the awfulness of it all. Letting go of rightness for mercy.

Has God punished you to the fullest extent of the law for your sins? Well, then . . . mercy can’t be about what we deserve.

Dave knew he was a sinner in need of mercy, but I had seen myself as a martyr and saint. I didn’t really, really believe I was in need of mercy, too. At least not to that extent. And that was the turning point.

Mercy is forgiveness. Mercy is restraint. Mercy is risk.

And mercy is also love.

It isn’t love to allow someone to destroy themselves or to abuse. It isn’t love to cover an addiction or crime. I have been there, too. When I dropped the rock I held against my husband, God, in His mercy, kept Dave there.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us,
not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.  Titus 3:4-5

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

“Mercy and forgiveness must be free and unmerited to the wrongdoer. If the wrongdoer has to do something to merit it, then it isn’t mercy, but forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness.” Tim Keller

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7

* * * * *

I would like to write more about mercy. All day long. But today I want to spend time with the man who loves me.

If you want to read more about mercy, here are two wonderful links I came across. The beauty of mercy is almost too much here: http://www.taize.fr/en_article6825.html and here: http://www.studylight.org/dic/hbd/view.cgi?number=T4234 And of course, I highly recommend Everybody’s Normal Til You Get to Know Them by John Ortberg.camellias