Mercy

borrowed drops of mercy

God’s word says his mercy is new every day because every day we will need new mercy just to breathe.  The problem I stumble around clutching awkwardly is that new mercy looks different every time it shows up.  It has swapped faces.  Every day it feels weird and brittle.  Receiving that new mercy takes trust on my part.  Because I keep looking at its packaging, squinting, and questioning how God will be faithful again.

I have trust issues.

Oh, God? I think I need new trust AND new mercy, please.  Daily.  If it’s no trouble.

You probably think that I have no trouble trusting that God is good (I write about it a lot), that I never question that he has a meticulous plan to bring glory through my circumstances.  That I just wake expectantly for my daily mercy meal like a baby bird, beak open.  And you’d be dead wrong about that.

You know what’s daily?  The fight to keep an open heart because that mercy meal does not look like what I ordered.

Why isn’t the banked mercy of God in our lives enough to trust for the oncoming mercy that has not arrived yet?

As I read 2 Corinthians 1, it looks like God’s people needed reminding then, just like we do today, that he was as faithful as he had always been.  His mercy is dependable because his character is trustworthy.  Faithful is his name.  When we call “Faithful!”, God turns his head.

In 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 and the verses that follow, Paul says that he was returning to them even sooner than he had planned because he had amazing stories of God’s faithfulness to regale them with.  So crazy good, wait for it, that he cannot delay coming back to tell them in person so that all together they can raise the roof in praise.  This was Paul’s God story, drama drama drama! He had survived persecution yet again and he knew his testimony of God’s direct deliverance was evidence of his character. He knew that borrowed drops of mercy from a brother would be taste enough to tide them over until tomorrow’s mercy arrived.

I can’t help but wonder if some of them would have cocked their heads when he told them of how his life was spared and thought quietly about their own suffering, unrelieved by the very same God who saved him.

“WOW! Paul!  Dude!   Seriously, we love you and we are sure glad that God rescued you from that disastrous situation – that I don’t even know how you ended up in – seriously…but, yay you!”

or

“Wow.  Again??  Again with the ‘I slipped the grip of evil men because I set my hope on God’ story?  Because here I am, still at my 9-5, still up at dawn milking goats, still married to the girl who loves my brother, still trapped by injustice.  But three cheers for you, Paul!  Whoop-dee-doo.

Here’s what really happened:

2 Corinthians 1:8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

Paul had come to understand the type of care he could depend on from God, the face of new mercy on the regular.  But it probably took some time before he trusted it.

The Body Shop olive line and coconut lip butter
a few of my favorite things

This reminds me of Kate at The Body Shop.  Kate is the store manager who always gives me more than I came in to get.  She stops to talk and remembers me.  Even though I spend less than $100 a year in that store.  Ok, less than $150.

And so I come back.  I come back for every customer appreciation bonus.  I slip absent-mindedly in on the last day of my birthday-month knowing I’m getting $10 off of my order, and leave with 5 products instead of one, 3 of them free samples, all because of Kate.  And because of Kate, I believe that when I go to Body Shop again, I will get treated well, counseled personally, and I will be believed and refunded when I bring back the product I can’t exude from the tube because of its clay-like viscosity.

I’ve come to believe in Kate.

Matthew 7: 9 Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; 10 or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent?

Who the heck would imagine that a good father would give a lousy gift?  Perhaps a person trained by pain to expect the worst of him.

11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Have you not known such a father?

If there’s any chance you are nodding, in tears, then I would want to know your story.  Not to fight you, but to peel back the pain and tell you, friend, that if you survived then you are a healer.  That is your mercy. You who carry the hardest story, can rise up through the most vicious storm, and since you know how – now you are a life-raft.  The mercy you carry can carry so many.

Yesterday’s mercy is all consumed, today’s salvific sip is just arriving.  Didn’t that mercy show up right on time, and the batch before that, and the batch before that?

What will it look like tomorrow?  What face will new mercy don?  Trust is tricky business, better identified in hindsight.

But we have that.  Let’s risk it.

 

Bridge Memorial Library, Walpole NH
Door photo taken at Bridge Memorial Library, Walpole NH, circa 1891.

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