Pour it on
In the summer of ’99, I interned at a church in Southern California. I lived with a member of the congregation: a middle-aged woman who lost her teenage son in a car accident just months earlier. Still grieving, she spoke of her son often.
She bragged of his charm and sense of humor. She recalled the way he wrapped his arms around her, the way he loved her. Then she lowered her voice and revealed his struggles: the drugs and alcohol he consumed, the shady company he kept, the schooling he never could quite finish.
The two of them started going to church together. He wanted to make major changes in his life, but it wasn’t easy. He fought addiction and the pull of his past as he forged towards a more positive future. Then he died.
She offered more detail than I really wanted in regards to his death, but I hung on her words knowing how much she needed to say them. He died instantly, no pain. Upon impact the aorta literally came unplugged and the contents of his heart poured out. Most people called it a tragedy. She called it mercy.
When the impound company handed her the contents of his car, she fell to her knees. Amidst car fresheners and Bob Marley CD’s was a scrap of paper: a piece torn from a church bulletin, a song that he had clipped to the driver-side visor. The chorus of the song read: pour out my heart, say that I love you . . . pour out my heart, say that I need you . . . pour out my heart, say that I’m thankful . . . pour out my heart, say that you’re wonderful.
To her, his death was God’s mercy. This life was too hard for him, and He had asked for God to pour out his heart. God had mercy on him.
When I think of mercy, I think of that game I played as a child. When a friend would link their fingers into mine and press back with all their might until I cried, “MERCY.” Mercy is the point at which a person let’s go instead of perpetuating the pain.
As I grow older, I understand the need for mercy. Even in my old age, blunders and missteps fill my days. Today was no different.
Someone called me today, angry with me. They had every right to be angry. I made a mistake. I couldn’t undo what I had done, I could only ask for forgiveness. I needed mercy.
There is right and there is wrong. We can be right, and we can have every right (every right to be angry, every right to be hurt, every right to be vengeful.)
Better than being right, is being merciful. Better than having every right, is having mercy.
Grace will cover my errors, but it cannot eliminate the repercussion. When love overpowers revenge, when forgiveness overlooks retaliation, when exhortation rings louder than punishment: then mercy reigns.
God requires just three things of us, and one of them is to love mercy. God himself desires mercy over sacrifice. Jesus said that the merciful are blessed. We are never want for mercy, God is rich in it and willing to share the wealth.
I can be dogmatic, self-righteous, and determined to prove my point. Or I can be merciful. Considering my own needs, I would be wise to let go, to release the pain, and to pursue healing.
The true tragedy comes when we hold on to anger and desire retribution. Grudges harden the heart.
Mercy allows the heart to be poured out.