Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7
If you asked me to define mercy, I would probably start with something like “showing compassion and giving aid to someone who is in trouble, perhaps in a situation they can’t get out of through their own volition.”
That pretty well describes where I was in late 2015. A business venture I’d felt led to pursue had not been profitable and my financial resources were depleted. Job applications weren’t yielding fruit. The future wasn’t simply blank. It seemed—from a human perspective—quite bleak. I hadn’t lost hope, but I was near the edge.
I’ll do whatever you want, God, just show me. Open the door, show me the path. That was my unceasing prayer.
Doors were not opening.
I was more perplexed than afraid, despite my desperate financial situation. God, you directed me down a path that appears to be a dead end. I’m open to whatever you want, but please show me.
I didn’t feel abandoned, but my answer wasn’t appearing in Times Square-esque, blinking neon lights. I knew He was present because providential blessings turned up just as needed, but yet….
Being With God
I turned to dirt. Most people call it gardening. I like to call it playing in the dirt.
Digging weeds is where I often start when there’s no obvious answer to a question. It’s in gardening, beekeeping and nature where I find it easiest to let go and “be” with God.
Creation is where I most clearly experience the omnipotent, infinite, Alpha-and-Omega Yahweh that is, was and will forever be. When I’m digging in the dirt, His still, small voice can more easily penetrate my human fortress.
Digging in the dirt also means I get to encounter earthworms. Of all God’s creatures, earthworms are one of my favorites.
Which brings me back to mercy….
Earthworms were my first thought when I learned we’d be writing about mercy this week. More specifically, a scene from the 1997 movie, Seven Years in Tibet, where Buddhist monks are sifting soil to save earthworms during a building project.
I’m a Christian, not a Buddhist, so my first inclination was to find a better way to illustrate Christian mercy. But the scene stayed with me, so I dug a bit deeper, and found this gem:
Though he is infinitely above all, and stands in no need of creatures; yet he is graciously pleased to take a merciful notice of poor worms in the dust. — Jonathan Edwards
It seems to me that each Biblical reference to mercy is accompanied by a plea from someone who is at the end of his or her rope or an admonishment to show mercy to those who are downtrodden or distressed.
Lighting the Dark Corners
During those October days of digging in dirt and pulling weeds, I was also re-reading Plan B, a book by Anne Lamott. One of her essays referenced a verse from a Leonard Cohen song that helped me to better comprehend the Divine mercy that is only experienced in brokenness.
Light enters through the cracks. Without cracks, the light can’t get in.
If we aren’t broken, we don’t see much need for mercy. At the very least, we probably aren’t willing to admit we need mercy.
As broken as I felt at the end of 2015, it wasn’t quite broken enough. The Light was there, but God wasn’t finished brightening up some hidey-holes.
I sometimes refer to myself as a recovering perfectionist, only half-jokingly.
Years ago, God taught me to stop holding others to impossible standards, but the plague of self-criticism descended as I experienced a series of unexpected professional setbacks. It would take more months and more brokenness before the Light really began to penetrate into a few dark corners where my perfectionist ego liked to sit in judgment over my imperfections.
It’s impossible to share the entire story in a single blog post, so I simply need to close with a reminder that we are each loved by a God of infinite mercy. He doesn’t expect us to be perfect.
Our God is the God who feeds the sparrow, clothes the lilies of the fields, and takes notice of the lowly earthworm. Our God is the God who simply requires that we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8).
While I’d accepted His grace long ago, I finally understood that I needed to accept His mercy, too, and let go of so much self-judgment. Only then could I truly offer mercy to others.
…because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13
Sheree Martin is a lawyer, entrepreneur and digital media consultant. She’s on a mission to help others Discover, Grow and Shine. Sheree is mom to multiple furry creatures and aunt to three awesome young adults. She loves spending time outdoors, especially at Shine Springs Farm, doing anything fitness related, and cooking real food for friends and family.