“The theme is Mercy,” she said. “Our scripture is, ‘He crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.’ But what you want to talk about is up to you; just keep it to about 25 or 35 minutes.”
I thanked the organizer of the woman’s conference and hung up the phone. I was delighted to have been asked to be one of the local speakers at the dynamic, well-attended diocesan conference. But as I stood there in the kitchen, feelings of doubt began to well up and I thought, Why couldn’t I have an amazing story to share in this talk? A miraculous healing, maybe. If only I could have been brought back to life – after a tête-à-tête with Jesus in heaven – by the touch of a relic flown in from Rome. Or a conversion. Yes, a conversion – a breathtaking story of how God appeared to me and broke through the years of hardened cynicism and unbelief. But, alas. I was just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill cradle Catholic and I didn’t much to say about Mercy. This was going to be awfully dull, I decided. Maybe I should back out.
Have I not shown you Mercy every single day of your life? The words, unspoken, were unmistakable.
“Yes, Lord,” I admitted.
Then tell them that.
And suddenly it all became clear.
There are a few of us with stories that reveal God’s glory and mercy in marvelous ways, ways that crash through our everyday and jolt us into worship and wonder. But for most of us, cradle or convert, God’s mercies are gentle, subtle, tender reminders of love meant just for us. And how easily they are forgotten or overlooked. How quick we are to chalk little mercies up to luck, timing, chance. Or attribute them to our own spunkiness or smarts. But real wisdom is seeing God’s hand in everything: orchestrating, healing, saving, catching, leading, holding. If we see life in this perspective, if we see the many, many ways His mercy is working, the many times it has saved us from even ourselves, it changes everything. When our spiritual eyes are open, we can see manifestations of his mercy – which is really His love turned toward us little sinners – all over our life. His fingerprints are everywhere. We must not lose little mercies. They are love notes from heaven.
Sticky kisses. An unexpected check when the bills are stacked up on the counter. The sunlight, warm on your skin, on that weary morning. The unplanned, and much needed, gift of time when the children take a long nap. The right song at the right time on the Christian radio station. Even a long line at the store – you see, it was really an invitation to pray. Or that feverish cry from the baby at night – yup, it was 3AM. The Hour of Mercy. And God was calling you like convent bells, asking you to wait just one hour with Him, present now in your little one. That, dear woman, was a mercy too. Even those bitter losses were severe mercies, severing attachments to worldly things, or anything that was other than Him. (Is not, in the end, the Cross the most severe, and yet most sweet, mercy there could ever be?)
I think we need to be reminded sometimes to turn on the spiritual receptors in our life and notice God’s love and grace. They are always mercies, you see, because they are always undeserved. And as in the scripture, they are always steadfast, constant and never changing. It is we who forget and overlook Him. We must recognize Him in the everyday. With each new recognition comes not just joy – but an ever-growing trust that begins to be a fortress in our soul against sin, anxiety, doubt, and fear. We trust Jesus because He is trustworthy – we have seen it. We see it everywhere. He turns everything to good.
If this is hard for us, then let’s pray for God to reveal the ways He loves us. To help us wipe the sleepiness or self-centeredness from our eyes and see His little mercies like wildflowers along the side of this long road to Him. And to have the foresight to tuck a few in our pockets for the night-times, when things aren’t so easy to see. The fragrance lingers in our memory if we let it. Forget-me-nots from God.
And get ready – in a year dedicated to mercy, there are bound to be bouquets of mercies ready for the picking, new every morning, a harvest of grace to be gathered by our waiting, expectant hearts. We just have to see it.