I spend a great deal of time thinking about grace. I never consider mercy. Chef has been bringing this word into our home more and more lately, I quickly shut the door on it, do not extend the welcome mat. Somehow this word, used so often in conjunction with grace, makes me uncomfortable. It seems to ask more of me, lets me know I am holding out. This little word seems to hang around, just outside, uninvited, carrying big connotations. Grace feels like a soft blanket on a cold day, mercy reminds me why I am cold in the first place. I’m not sure why these concepts are so divided for me, where in the storytelling and early learning about God I missed some important message. Maybe I really know and am choosing my guest list carefully. Today while no one is looking, I start the coffee and hesitantly crack open the door, I issue my own invitation to Mercy.
I get settled on the comfy couch under my softest blanket, a large cup of coffee for courage and my faithful beast cuddled next to me, I notice Mercy drift in. I ignore Her and do some research. Gotquestions.org explains the difference this way: mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God blessing us despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is extending kindness to the unworthy. No wonder I prefer the sweetness of grace, I like kindness, I like blessings. I have a sign by the front door that says, “Be Nice or Leave.” (I may have mentioned before this is how we keep the bears away, as I have explained to Plum, who is afraid of big hairy creatures with sharp claws, not including our beasts.) I get grace, literally, thank you God. I understand and see grace in my everyday. I write almost daily about meeting up with grace, friends and creatures alike who show me the kindness of God, show me the love I yearn for. I count those blessings, having been on the short side too many times, I take nothing for granted. Grace has a standing invitation, the door is always open. Mercy has been knocking, I have pretended to be asleep.
Yes, I went back to Grace where the warm blanket is. I see that. Why would I want to venture into the cold, though? “Mercy, sit down, stop hovering, you make me nervous. Please, sit over there, on the other couch. I let you in, let’s not rush this.” My beast takes no notice of this intruder, begins to snore. I feel betrayed, try to focus on his lack of protection but Mercy draws my attention back, a rather demanding guest. Where is Grace? I need more coffee, I don’t really want to visit with Mercy.
Judgement, sins, these are not feel-good words. I am honest enough to share my sins, to expose my brokenness. but am I working on the big one that God really wants me to attack? Avoiding Mercy is my way of not acknowledging what has been given to me so that I can stay under my blanket, do my counts and not be forced to let go of some judging. I have forgiving to do and I don’t want to. “There Mercy, I said it, are You content? ” Mercy smiles but not in the way I expected when I finally dared raise my eyes to Her. I didn’t see the condemnation I was expecting, the ‘Uh huh, I knew it! smirk”. Hmm, maybe this isn’t so bad.
I have hurts, scabs I keep picking at to ensure the wounds don’t heal. I secretly want gum to stick to the bottom of a couple folk’s shoes, I want their toilets to get stopped up, I want their favorite shirt to get stained. I’m afraid to look over at Mercy, expecting to see Her getting up from my couch right now, heading towards the door, disgusted with me. A weird thing has happened though, a bit of peace has descended, I feel less judged in holding in the secret of my judging. I think Mercy already knew. “Tell me more child,” whispers Mercy.
In the silence of my living room, I explain that these people really hurt me. I don’t wish big hurts on them, I just can’t find forgiveness. I talk about my pesky pastor who keeps preaching about forgiveness and how when I hear him I say ,”La la la la” in my head as I look attentively at him from the front row. Mercy keeps listening. I offer some of my blanket, we get closer. This is a mistake as I begin to think of all the people I have hurt. I deserve huge wads of gum on all of my favorite Tom’s, I really should carry a travel sized plunger with me at all times. I want Mercy to go sit on the other couch but it is too late. I want to hold on to my hurt but it rose like the steam from my coffee, cooled now. I can’t get back that “first cup in the morning” heat. Damn Mercy is good.
I can’t say I have fully forgiven, I think Mercy and I will need a full pot of coffee, a few more mornings together. I have more to share, Mercy said She will listen. She likes my blanket, prefers to sit with me, snuggled close. I’m not so twitchy now. After we get to know each other better, we can invite Grace in for some scones, for now I need to sit with Her and let the steam rise. It occurs to me that most of my favorite shirts are stained. I wonder if anyone else might want to invite Mercy in for a cup of coffee. She is free after 6 most mornings.