The idea of mercy has been cropping up all over the place this past week. I’m not totally sure what to make of it all, so once again this blog is acting as a means of processing some of my thoughts.
I’m reading a novel by Madeleine L’Engle, called A Live Coal in the Sea. There are many passages about mercy, and one of them contains a quote from William Langland, who lived in the 1300s. “But all the wickedness in the world which man may do or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea.”
A dear friend from the Dale was assaulted last weekend, for making a good decision (to not buy drugs for someone else). She suffered a concussion and some bruises, along with the trauma of being attacked in her own apartment. I went with her to the police station a few days after the incident, where she gave her statement and had her injuries photographed.
What in the world does mercy look like in this situation? Surely not that the actions of the men who attacked her should be overlooked. That would be total injustice. I’m sure that these actions stem from deep pain and brokenness within these men, but to simply allow violence to occur is not merciful to anyone. But what DOES mercy look like? I desire mercy and justice for my friend, and I also desire that these men experience some sort of restorative justice, and the deep, deep mercy of God, which is also just. Micah 6:8 rolls so easily off the tongue, but sometimes seems so complicated- what is it to act justly and love mercy? I guess that’s why walking humbly with God is the conclusion of that verse.
Another friend from the Dale has been having very vivid and disturbing dreams, which are affecting him mentally, physically and spiritually. He is already struggling with a great many things, and this feels like just too much. As I parted ways with him a couple of nights ago, I told him that I would pray for rest for him. His response was, “Rest?! Don’t get fancy, dear; just pray for mercy.”
What does mercy look like in this context? I think he meant mercy as relief from this mental and spiritual affliction, which isn’t even a result of anything he had done. Mercy as relief from an terribly overwhelming situation.
Yesterday’s reading from Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals contains Psalm 69:15, “In your great mercy, O God, answer me with your unfailing help,” and prayer that reads “Merciful Lord, you revealed your glory by humbly serving the one who would betray you. Shower us with your mercy, Lord, and grow us up to be merciful. Amen.”
In this week leading up to Easter we remember that God’s mercy, displayed in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, is to human wickedness, brokenness and pain, as the sea is to a live coal. This doesn’t deny that the coal burns hot. The consequences of its heat are painful and widespread. Lord, show us what it means to be submerged in you, and to invite others to jump in too.