Dearest reader, part of my exercise in writing this blog is to hold myself accountable to the lessons that God is teaching me. I am also learning to tell my story without barging in on the narratives of others, especially in a way that might leave them vulnerable. I am hoping that my account of this next installment of instruction will stay true to those motives.
Thoughts for today’s lesson:
1. Precisely because we can hurt people so grievously when we don't know what we're doing, it's our responsibility to know what we're doing. It's our responsibility to look at all the angles. Self-knowledge is not just a luxury. It's more a responsibility. It's like learning to drive right so you don't run people down. – Cary Tennis
2. Mercifulness: a disposition to be kind and forgiving
My education in mercy would be so much nicer and tidier if my only object lesson was helping a little boy in Africa. I knew it would not work out like that, but I was completely surprised when an opportunity to be merciful sort of exploded on me last night.
The setting for this situation is an online conversation in which me and 3 or 4 other people are encouraging someone who was very disheartened. The original storm seemed to have passed and we were even joking around just a little when I had to step away for just a bit.
I came back to the conversation to see how things were going and was just flabbergasted at what had transpired in a short amount of time. The discussion now involved the betrayer, the betrayed (which is which is a matter of perspective, I think), various family members and several friends. Except for the aforementioned betrayer and betrayed, I know none of these people and have no clue what the normal dynamics are in the group. That means that I had no idea what I was about to step into.
I felt like I had been transported into a looping rerun of the Jerry Springer Show (why is that show always on in waiting rooms?). Language that I had thankfully forgotten existed was being tossed around. Battle lines were being drawn and none of the combatants seemed to appreciate neutrality. Mind you, although I was seeing all of this happen, I had not added anything new to the conversation. Arguments were being made about who caused the most damage by not thinking about what they were doing (see #1 in the thoughts for today’s lesson). It was sad and destructive and hurtful to watch. I have a spotty past (God, thank You for forgiveness) that has put me in some strange situations even as an adult, but I have not personally witnessed anything of this nature since junior high.
Then it happened... The insults were extended to me and my husband, solely by virtue of our relationship to betrayer/betrayed. I had to go back and reread what was on the screen to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. I called out to my husband who was in the next room. I read to him what was being said as if hearing it out loud would make it seem less offensive (I have over-reacted once or twice in my past). That didn’t work. Hubby wasn’t very pleased with it either. Suddenly, I did not have “a disposition to be kind and forgiving” (see #2 in the thoughts for today’s lesson).
As I am writing this, I can easily remember the Bible verse that says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19); but last night I did not have that type of recall. I could, however, remember everything I have ever learned about picking apart an argument and beating someone with their own logic. It makes me more than a little heartsick now to think that I know these things. It is hard to “unlearn” our past, isn’t it? I was also able to call up huge reserves of self-righteousness and reasoning about why I am such a better person than those hurling the insults. Restraint of tongue and pen (which I hear has been upgraded to “restraint of thumb and ‘send’” for smartphone users) was about to fail me.
And just as I was about to give someone a piece of my mind... one of the only people who probably had a right to be hurt in all of this stepped in, so very gracefully, and offered mercy, blessings, and prayers to everyone who was even remotely involved in the whole sad mess. It was breathtaking. I was honored and humbled to sit there in her shadow while she shined her light on all of us. Not another comment was made, nor was one needed.
Even were this not the season that God had picked to teach me more deeply about mercy, I would have liked to have been able to tell you that I was so spiritually mature and refined that I was about to step into that horrible battle and offer peace. But I cannot tell you that. I have been remiss in attending to my spiritual condition and it was evident to me. I got put into a situation that was completely foreign and very intimidating to me, and my first reaction was to shoot from the hip.
In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages us to put on the “full armor of God”, specifically mentioning “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. I don’t remember thinking anything about the Gospel, peace, or mercy until hours later when I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it. I am so thankful that my anger was stilled by someone who had more sense than I did at that moment. Mercy was shown where I could not offer it.
I obviously have far to go in this journey to learn mercy. The good news is that I know that God did not bring me this far to drop me off on the side of the road now. And so we go onward...