Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. – Lk 6:36
But can I be honest? I hate admitting when I’m wrong. And, even more, I find it extraordinarily hard to forgive someone when they don’t readily see the error of his or her ways.
I know, super charitable and Christian of me. Tell me I’m not alone?
There is one instance, in particular, with someone I dearly love. This person is absolutely precious to me. But the choices that are being made? They’re deplorable. Unimaginable. Unforgivable, almost. The kind that make me want to pick up the phone, or stand face-to-face and just lay it out. I’m talking no holds barred, no political correctness, no kind southern platitudes, kind of chat.
But I can’t.
It’s hard to love someone when the choices they make are just so rotten. It’s hard to wipe away the bitterness and disappointment and see the heart of someone in pain, isn’t it? A dear friend recently shared with me that “hurting people hurt people.” Truer words have rarely been spoken. When you’re in a bad place, it’s just so much easier to drag the world down with you. How can you show love if it doesn’t reside within you?
And I suppose that’s the thing about mercy. We have to be bigger than our disdain, bigger than our ego, bigger than being right. Mercy doesn’t mean we condone the act, or the choice, but it means we’re choosing to love that person where they are, no matter how crappy the choice.
That certainly means I have to lean on someone bigger than me.
A few weeks ago, I gathered with some college sorority sisters for an overnight getaway in downtown Austin. It was just the four of us. We laughed until we couldn’t laugh any longer. It was great. On the drive home, as I reflected on the evening and our conversations, I was able to see just how far I’ve come since the glory days at Texas A&M. Back then, the world was black and white, all figured out in a nice, neat box. I spouted my beliefs and expected the world to see them as the gospel truth. And then I grew up and realized the world is much less about right vs. wrong and much more about meeting people where they are.
Before I pulled into my driveway, I found myself sitting in the church parking lot. I confidently walked in and sat near the Tabernacle in prayer. I’m doing that more, chatting with God and listening to what He has to say. He keeps reminding me that the grace to appreciate the depth of someone’s struggles only comes after fighting the fight yourself.
“Be kind. Be merciful,” he whispered in my ear.
I’ve been bringing the same prayer intention to him for months. It is wearing on me, heavily. Yet, amidst that inner turmoil, I see what is happening. I see God chipping away at my ability to forgive, with love and with mercy. There is no timetable for how long that process will take, but I trust in his providential timeline. He hasn’t let me down yet.