“Mercy means that we no longer constantly judge everybody’s large and tiny failures, foolish hearts, dubious convictions, and inevitable bad behavior. We will never do this perfectly, but how do we do it better? How do we mostly hold people we’ve encountered with the understanding of a wise, caring mother who has seen it all, knows that we all struggle, knows that on the inside we’re as vulnerable as a colony of rabbits?” (Anne Lamott1)
How do I, as someone who takes seriously the words of Jesus and the ever-present grace and mercy of my Father, ensure I extend mercy and grace to my family? My neighbors? To those with whom I have nothing in common?
My desire, when I abide in God’s Spirit, is to see through His eyes, to look from my heart into the heart of another. When I see and hear deep under the surface, I am able to connect to the heart of an individual forged by the very same Creator who breathed life into me.
When I remember what it was like before I accepted God’s absolute mercy, extravagant grace and unconditional love, I feel two overwhelming emotions: joy and sorrow. The joy is because He never abandoned me and saved my life in ways I will never know. It is for the gratefulness I feel that God is patient and merciful, and that He waited for me to awaken to His desire for me.
Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise—slow is how some people want to characterize it—no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to have an opportunity to turn to him and change the way they think and act. (2 Peter 3:9)
The great grief and sorrow in my heart is for those who have yet to experience this permeating Love and Grace. Once I accepted His gift, my heart and mind were changed forever. I’ve experience peace of mind and heart beyond understanding the apostle Paul referred to in his letters to the Corinthians, the Philippians and the Colossians.
I am grateful this did not take me years to embody; it happened quickly, for I was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer six months after I chose to be baptized. Like many others who’ve experienced a life-threatening illness, the natural tendency to reevaluate my approach to life weighed upon my heart and mind. I was clearly able to see the ways in which I judged, condemned and placed myself above others whose sins were no greater, but different than my own.
Cancer, while not my preferred route, was definitely my pathway toward a mind with clearer sight, greater compassion and an open heart to unconditional love for others.
“There are many routes to living a merciful life in this mean and dangerous world; assorted ways to find and extend inclusion; a number of walkways to awakening and gratitude. The first is to get cancer.” (Anne Lamott2)
Since my bout with cancer and and acceptance of God’s love, I have never been the same. I understand the vulnerability which lurks deep inside of each of us. I appreciate the finite time I have with my loved ones. I palpably feel the infinitesimal number of moments I have to make a difference. I rise passionately every day wanting to touch the life of another human being, to guide you to know the deep and soul-freeing love of Jesus.
I ache to impart the importance of accepting and offering love and grace, of turning away from judgment, of embracing forgiveness, mercy and compassion. And I want all to understand this has nothing whatsoever to do with conversion to a religion. It has everything to do with the unequivocal invitation into a caring family of rabbits who will never abandon you. It is the acceptance of who you are, vulnerable as you are, with all your flaws, because we are flawed too, and are loved because of – not in spite of – them.
So imitate God and be truly merciful and compassionate, the way your Father is. If you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge. If you don’t want to be condemned, don’t condemn. If you want to be forgiven, forgive. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it but to save it. (Luke 6:36-37; John 3:17)
1©2017 Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, pp 142-3, Riverhead Books, NY, NY
2©2017 Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, pp 141, Riverhead Books, NY, NY