Welcome to Mercy Mondays! On the second Monday of each month, we discuss mercy together. I am happy to host this link-up, especially this month, as we journey through Lent. I am excited to see what you have to say about mercy in the light of this season in the church year.
Lately, I’ve thought a great deal about justice, and how I’d never really connected it with mercy. It seems that Micah 6:8 is everywhere these days, and in that verse, we read: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?” (Amplified Bible)
So this month, I hope to read your thoughts on these attributes (or others, as you wish) that accompany mercy:
“Mercy’s Companions: How Justice and Humility Complement Mercy”
Back in college, not much about me screamed mercy. Certainly I can remember a good deal of (self-) righteousness, and a great deal of attention to the rules of Christian behavior, as I interpreted them. Mercy, not so much. Let’s stipulate also that humility had not even begun to register on my mental list as a desirable trait.
One memory that has lived with me for years came to pass after an evening of chalking for a ministry I took part in. Campus groups at Baylor could obtain a permit to blanket the sidewalks between buildings with chalk reminders of upcoming events, and we’d gathered to chalk for Jesus. Afterward, several students stood chatting inside the ministry building after putting away our much-diminished chalk supplies. Seeing a number of friends (and one unfamiliar face) among the group, I walked over, ready to join in on impromptu dinner plans. Wrinkling my nose at a most-unfamiliar-within-this-building smell, I asked loudly of all my fellow Christians (and one stranger), “Has someone been smoking??”
I could feel all eyes in the group cut my way. As soon as it left my mouth, I knew what I’d done. The one face in the group I didn’t know? She was the smoker. The guy who’d invited her along had probably had to assure her we weren’t uptight and judgmental. And I’d just ruined it by announcing loudly what everyone else already knew but had had the grace to overlook: she didn’t follow our rules.
Her name was Alice. I never saw her in our ministry building again. To this day, every time she crosses my mind, I pray for Alice. I have prayed that she would find kinder people than me in the church. I have prayed to always remember that awful sensation of putting another person’s flaws in the spotlight, of marking someone else as an “other,” so that I wouldn’t do it again. I have prayed throughout our lives, mine and Alice’s, that God’s great great love would outdo my moment of thoughtlessness.
Thankfully, also back in college, I made a number of friends who helped light the way to living a more compassionate, thoughtful, merciful life. Some have walked with me every step of the way. Some faded out early, but left meaningful impressions on me. Others have drifted in and out over the years. One of those college friends, Paul Soupiset, is an award-winning artist and a contemplative observer of the spiritual in the everyday surroundings of life.
As I let Micah 6:8’s juxtaposition of justice and humility bracketing mercy roll around in my mind the last couple of weeks, I had started to think of mercy as a resting place. Justice seems to me like a call to action; humility presents itself to me as a cleansing of all pride. Mercy seemed like the place where you would sit with others to listen, to care, to extend (and maybe also receive) compassion.
So imagine my surprise on Friday when I saw this, Paul’s daily sketch in his Lenten Sketchbook 2013:
Paul pictures beauty and truth alongside mercy, all in a comfortable place to sit together. As I thought about that idea, it gave even more context and fullness to Micah’s complement of attributes: justice, mercy, and humility. When we think of justice, isn’t truth a significant part of what we expect justice to affirm? When we humble ourselves, are we not acknowledging the beauty that is found in setting our own self-interests aside? When we allow justice and humility to be companions to our mercy, aren’t we creating a beautiful, truthful place for others and ourselves to meet God?
I thought then of my friend Dawn in Austin, whose Funky Fish Designs creates jewelry that raises money for orphan care and adoption of children who are HIV positive, among other things. She is a whirlwind of action, and yet she takes time to make others feel special. Her kindness inspired Blossom to start praying for children in Africa who need parents, and in time, to give part of her spending money to groups who work in partnership with African communities to help orphans. Dawn’s influence is reaching around the world, and also reaching into my living room. That’s justice, mercy, and humility in action, in my book. Dawn makes a Micah 6:8 necklace, and of all her lovely works, this one means the most to me in this season of contemplating mercy’s companions.
In our family life, we choose to uproot every couple of years and go somewhere new. Our adventures more than repay the cost of not being able to put roots down in one spot, but nevertheless, relationships have become the valuable currency of our lives. From my relationship with God in Christ comes my sense of the meaningful, and I approach new people now with a more nuanced view than I did with poor Alice back in college. But I know I still don’t emanate the warm invitation to come sit, come be part of all that God has to offer. Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with my God.
And pull up a chair full of truth and beauty, will you? Let’s rest awhile together.