I seem to have had a lot of "alone time" recently. Most of the time when I'm alone, I ponder things. It's a stream of consciousness that would seem pretty odd to most people. I start with a collection of thoughts that come from conversations I've had, articles/blogs I've read, work I've done, and memories. The free association of these thoughts in my head can lead me down a bunny trail sometimes. And sometimes, it leads me to something profound. I'll let you decide for yourself if I got to a worthwhile conclusion this time, but humor me while I get to the point, okay?
It started with thoughts of babies because of a blog I had read. I was thinking about how we are all fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). The Almighty Creator brings forth from tiny cells these amazing beings so that He can love them and hopefully (if they are willing) be in a relationship with them for all of their lives.
Then there was the capture of Ratko Mladić, a former Bosnian Serb military leader who is being brought before a United Nations war crimes tribunal to face charges including genocide and crimes against humanity. The dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the resulting violence was just a small blip on my radar at the time; but I remember hearing about Mladić and I don't remember any of it being good. He evaded capture for about 16 years, and I admit to being happy to know that he had been caught.
The next thought had to do with another blog I had read that addressed friends who grow apart. I remember thinking at the time I read it about relationships that I thought had too much drama in them. That drama seemed to be a good enough reason to "grow apart". There had even recently been a little "repost this" snippet on Facebook that started out, "there comes a time when you outgrow the drama..." or words to that effect.
The last thought that sort of started bringing this all together was the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). I don't know where this came from other than to say God was trying to get my attention. It was while I was considering this parable that all the other thoughts started coming together as if maybe there was a point to be made. Consider it with me for a moment.
We know that the ultimate point of this parable is loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus is teaching us to show mercy. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.' Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" But do likewise? Show mercy? To whom?
It has been my experience in discussions of this passage of scripture that most people naturally assume that the man "who fell into the hands of robbers" was a good man and deserving of mercy. But was he? Jesus doesn't say. The man is in no shape to plead his case as the Priest and the Levite pass him by. He has nothing to recommend himself to the Samaritan who finally stops to help him other than his desperate need. What if this man was not a good man? Maybe he had beaten his wife that morning (although that was not nearly as scandalous back then). What if he stole money from the collection box at the synagogue? What if he was that guy who lived in a broken-down trailer with old refrigerators all over the yard? (okay, so that is a more modern reference) What if he was a pathological liar or a glory hog? The Samaritan man doesn't seem to be worried about that. He just sees a man in need.
I think I actually had shampoo in my hair when it occurred to me that I did know something else about the beaten man. I knew that he was a man who was fearfully and wonderfully made, who God wanted a relationship with. That caught me up short.
My mind flashed back to Ratko Mladić. When I found out about his capture, the article I was reading had a very large, close-up photo of Mladić's face. I remember the brief thought I had at that moment that this was the face of a man who had been knit in his mother's womb by the same Hands that knit me. Now before you get all "het up" thinking that I want to set mass murders free with a slap on the hand, please know that isn't true. I'm still of the mind that Mladić should be held accountable for his crimes. But as I was washing the shampoo out of my hair and trying to commune with Lord at the same time, it came to me. Jesus was telling me, "Even him - even this very man! I want him to be reconciled to me. I want to have a relationship with him." And I knew then that Jesus will chase this man down. I have no way of knowing if Mladić will respond to the call of the Savior. But what I do know is that Jesus shed His blood for even this man. It would not occur to me in my fallen state to give my life for a man that is considered a butcher in our society, but my thoughts are not His thoughts. I think in Jesus' story, the Samaritan would have stopped to help even if it were Mladić lying there on the side of the road.
The Hands that knit me in my mother's womb are the Hands of an Almighty God who says, "Even you, Carolyn! Even you! Even when you are mired in sin and slogging your way through it trying to prove that you can run the world - even then - I love you and want to be in a relationship with you. I gave My only begotten Son because I want you to have everlasting life with Me!" And I am humbled. And grateful. And how can I act upon that gratitude but to show mercy to others who are fearfully and wonderfully made?
Now here in central Texas, I don't run across a lot of people who have been robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road. I don't even run across many war criminals. So who should I be showing mercy to? Maybe the people in my life who emotionally beat and rob me and others. Maybe the people who steal my time with no thought of ever returning it. Maybe the people whose emotional lives are the equivalent of broken-down trailers - the one's who have emotional baggage littered all over their front lawns. My initial reaction to that is, "I don't think so! I have enough going on in my life without their drama!" But my thoughts are not His thoughts. Jesus ate with prostitutes and tax collectors. He gave His life for those whose cheese is seriously sliding off of their crackers. Now before you get all het up again thinking that I'm advocating that you let people like this overrun your life, push your buttons, and break through your boundaries, just stop for a minute. If anybody had good boundaries, it was Jesus. He would stop people cold if they were headed off in the wrong direction. But He loved them and He showed mercy.
Now He wants me to show mercy. He wants me to stop sitting pretty in a pew while pretending that I've got it all together and demanding that you do the same. He does want me to love the woman sitting next to me in church pretending that she doesn't have any issues (its-yous). But He also wants me to love and show mercy to the woman shopping next to me at the Goodwill who has so much emotional baggage that she needs one of those luggage haulers like you see out on the tarmac at the airport. He even wants me to show mercy to the "hooker from the Kit Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada". (two points if you know where that reference comes from) And I'm pretty sure He wants me to show mercy to my melodramatic friends who I would rather "grow apart" from.
Now that I've led you on this path through my seemingly random musings, I hope you see that God was using my thoughts to get me to His thoughts. I will say that I have no idea what showing mercy looks like in most situations. I'm going to have to give up my self-centered thinking so that my head will be clear enough to receive the loving Guidance of the One who loves me. You are more than welcome to walk this path with me. :)