We just passed the half-way point of our Heart Cleanse that I might be renaming Soul-Cleanse because that’s what seems to be going on. Something deep at a soul level is happening.
A levity has entered our sphere.
“Have you been doing our little cleanse thing?” I ask Snopes.
“In my head,” she replies.
I nod. And ask, “Have you noticed a levity? I mean, it seems like with the boys, all of us, a lightness is there.”
“I know,” she says – almost wide-eyed – and nods. “Absolutely.”
“I’m not making it up?”
“No,” she’s as moved by it as me, “it’s really there.”
Then she adds, “I find myself thinking about it all the time. Honestly – it’s Mercy that has really impacted my thoughts.”
“Me too. In fact,” I add, “thanks for reminding me last night.”
The kids had stopped me in my tracks, floating the word my way when I was frustrated about an inconvenience. It was silly and involved someone we love.
“I’m grateful you guys pointed out the opportunity. You were right. And as soon as I grabbed it, I think we all felt peace enter the picture.”
Because here’s the deal. When someone is frustrated, everyone around feels it. We all get a little on edge – either with anxiety/worry, leery of short fuses that come with frustration OR concern for what’s about to hit person causing annoyance.
Since we’ve been purposefully seeking opportunities to have and practice mercy, it was easy to see and do – genuinely. It touched each person in the car and the one getting in the car who had unwittingly caused the frustration. And mercy invited dignity – to all involved.
Fascinating to see the power of mercy at play almost the instant it was tapped.
The kids have handed me the mercy card more than once. And honestly, I’m grateful. I’m humbled and grateful that the people I walk alongside genuinely (not in a gotcha sort of way) care. I think we have all realized that mercy is both the most difficult and the most deeply moving aspect of this exercise. It seems to hit our soul’s core working from the inside out.
Mercy is not about condoning, but about redeeming – to counteract or correct something negative – to make good something gone wrong. It’s about dignity – the worth of a human being, all the people involved when mercy comes into play.
James Keenan, a Jesuit priest, calls mercy “the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.” Which is an interesting interpretation.
I told one of the kids yesterday about his take. “What an interesting way to think about it,” Snopes replied.
We’ve each struggled with having mercy. It seems it’s not a one-and-done. In fact, the same opportunities keep arising – which I’m not sure what they reveals about old wounds or stubborn bitterness or other things we’ve packed away in hopes of avoiding. Practicing Mercy has brought to the surface a need for healthy boundaries so that mercy can do what it does – redeem. Replacing the frustration, judgment, negative reaction, disappointment, or fill in the blank (some warranted, some relentlessly shoveled upon ourselves) with Hope & Grace and the peace that comes with them.
“Yes, so interesting” I reply to her. And we both ponder – I guess mentally running through iterations of what willingness to enter into the chaos of another looks like. “I think compassion and forgiveness have to be added to the end of the sentence.”
“Yeah,” Snopes nods. “Maybe that’s where willingness starts – with compassion.”
And at the core soul level, that’s exactly what God (who is “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” Exodus 34:6) did for us.
As we celebrate Labor Day – grateful for all the workers, so many unseen, who do and do and do – dare we consider the enormity of what God did so that we don’t have to labor our way to salvation. It does not escape me as something worth celebrating today.
Mercy (God’s willingness to enter our chaos) and Grace (favor, blessing, kindness, unmerited favor – fruit of his labor freely given, never involving our work/performance in order to receive) that leads to, as the Apostle Paul so often referred to in his letters, peace in abundance.
Mercy is changing the narrative. Whether it’s the internal conversations we have with ourselves concerning ourselves [you know, the messaging that tends to be on repeat just in case we need a reminder of how we fall short when everyone else measures up or how we could lose a few pounds and weigh what we did ten years ago (even though ten years ago, we thought we could lose a few pounds) or all the shoulds, woulds and coulds] OR the issues that arise with others – MERCY stands ready to redeem.
I think the power in practicing gratitude, kindness and mercy is just beginning to be realized around here. Forty days might not be enough. And on a practical note, I’ve noticed that keeping a notebook in the car is helpful. And especially fun with my youngest as we discuss to and from school.
Not every day is easy. Last week Birdie had nothing to offer on any. Which actually was a clear indication that he needed some extra time and love that day.
I’m GRATEFUL to be traveling the road next to him. Mercy barreled in as it never takes much to remind me the hard days of middle school insecurity (I mean really, we’re all a flesh-wound away regardless our age) as did opportunities to practice kindness.
“How about some popcorn?” There’s a movie theater close to our school. It’s a carpool splurge, but so worth it.
“That would be nice,” he gloomily replied. “And maybe a Starbucks?”
What?! That’s too much! — “Sure,” I happily agree – fifth kid, golden spot to be.
He runs in to both places – returning from popcorn place with excitement that he got to see Anthony (yes, the kid befriends and knows the names of people who work behind the counters – I’m grateful for such kind workers) and the Starbucks with a drink for his sister. Even in middle-school funk, kindness steadies the ride.
Thanks for walking the road with me.