“Mercy means compassion, empathy, a heart for someone’s troubles. It’s not something you do – it is something in you, accessed, revealed, or cultivated through use, like a muscle. We find it in the most unlikely places, never where we first look.”
― Anne Lamott,
Anne Lamott, in her acclaimed book, Hallelujah Anyway, describes mercy as something that we may have always had. She describes it as something she began with, as a small child, but it was folded up and put in a drawer, as her family saw mercy as weakness and would not tolerate such radical forgiveness in a small child. Her upbringing was very much about how things looked. Oh, can I relate to that. One of my sisters wrote of me as being “embarrassing”, when I was hurting, at my most . . . desperate to find help and healing, reaching out, grasping at unreachable solace, drowning in single-motherness, painfully aware of the post-separation abuse I was suffering, at a loss as to where to live. It was “messy” to them. And embarrassing. The cruelty of that word when a person is suffering is unconscionable. It did not look good for an Owen girl to be in so much pain. And no one knew how to handle it.
For years, I have wondered if I could be like Joseph, when his brothers came back and found him there, stately and unrecognizable. Would I cry? If my family came back and said, “Wow, Megan . . . DID WE EVER handle that badly! Could you forgive us for the ways in which we hurt you? And then tried to cover it up by making you out to be unstable? All the ways we justified our bad behavior . . . I’m sorry.” Would I cry, like Joseph? Would I be gracious? Would I want to bless them, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure they would have been happy if I had just died?
I think I know now. I remember that child . . . that little girl that just wanted to forgive. I even remember my Mother smiling at me, once, as a preteen and saying, “Megan is the one who doesn’t hold grudges.” What happened to that girl? I wasn’t sure, for so long, if she was in there. I wasn’t sure that I could ever find her, amidst the rubble of scars and pain and brokenness that just wouldn’t heal. But, she’s there. I’m sure she is there, like a deep and underlying lake that has been buried under thick, red, caked-over mud. This week, I could feel her, sense her, and lean into her. And oh, what consolation. It is so true, what they say about how forgiveness releases the forgiver. For years, I have wanted to reach out, make amends, fix relationships that seemed forever broken. It is in me to do that. But, the vulnerability to people who have only harmed me for so long was simply too much. I may never have relationships with said folks again. And that is OK. All I needed was to lean into that merciful Megan that I had missed so much. For my sake. From my vantage point and for my heart. And so,
For putting me on a pedestal that I could never live up to . . . . I forgive you.
For the character assassination . . . . I forgive you.
For the brutal, ongoing and relentless judgment . . . . I forgive you.
For not seeing me as a person . . . . I forgive you.
For not respecting me, as a mother . . . . I forgive you.
For not knowing how to help me . . . . I forgive you.
For trying to keep a relationship with my children while disparaging me publicly . . . . I forgive you.
For choosing sides with a man who tried to murder my soul . . . . I forgive you.
For wishing ill for me and justifying it with piety . . . . I forgive you.
For the gossip and rumors and slander and mob-mentality . . . . I forgive you.
For not knowing me because I am not a person deserving respect to you . . . . I forgive you.
For the jealousy and envy . . . . I forgive you.
For lying and twisting the past . . . . I forgive you.
For screaming at me, throwing things, blaming me for all of life’s troubles . . . . I forgive you.
For trying to ruin every day that was special and/or precious to me. . . . I forgive you.
For what felt like pure hatred against me . . . I forgive you.
For not having any mercy for me . . . I forgive you.
Oh, the relief.
Release, release, release. Releasing them to Jesus. Letting Him deal with it all. Dropping the burden. They are no longer judged by me or accused by me, in my heart. This is not for them. I doubt that they care. This is what I need.
And I will never bring it up again.
And I have mercy. I have a heart for their troubles. Because I believe we are all human and that none of us deserve mercy and so we all deserve mercy because of the Great Mercy Giver. It is who God is . . . and I want, so badly, to be like Him. They could not make Him hard-hearted, no matter how many times they slapped Him, spit on him and tore at Him. And I will not allow them to make me hard, either. This is how I know God IS . . . because He could keep me soft-hearted in the midst of hatred all around me. That is a miracle. That makes Him very very real to me.
And people hurt out of their hurt. I get that, too.
Those who injured me do not know how to help, to love, to be vulnerable and show kindness to me. To others — yes, sometimes. But, not to me. It was a habit not to. I see it now. It was what started, after our parents died. Or maybe it was before. It was all the relatives growing uncomfortable when you “let me have it”. But they did not speak up. It was how you all coped. You needed someone to blame for your peacelessness. And that is all forgiven. I have compassion for that. Because I am so, incredibly free now. I am loved by the One who loves me enough. He fills the holes that were left there by the bullets of hate and soul-crushing that you did and that I did to myself. And I forgive me, too. Thank you, Jesus.
So, I wasn’t supposed to be this person. Despite everything that happened, God has made me His Beloved. With all that has happened, I should be mean, unforgiving, callous, twisted, hateful, lonely, unable to to thrive, anxious, depressed, fearful, angry, distant and more. I should not be able to have sustainable relationships. I should be ruined. And yet . . . . here I am . . . . loving mercy. Truly, deeply, happily loving it. And thriving.
Isn’t that what God requires? Do justice, love mercy and walking humbly with Him? Oh, yes. I can do these things . . . I can do justice and I can love mercy because I walk humbly with Him. That is a very attainable standard, and quite quite different than the other standards I hear about.
Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for forgiving me so I could forgive them and I could forgive me, too. I can honestly say, I would be so so lost — so forlorn and hopeless — without You. Oh, how I love You for that. Oh, how I feel Your love and compassion for me and for others. And Your healing . . . every single day. Thank you for walking beside me, as I admit to You that I don’t know what I’m doing but that I want to take your light and easy burden. As I admit that my way doesn’t work and that Your way is better. Thank you. You are my Hero, the love of my life, my everything.