I heard that phrase the other night, Revel in Mercy, probably on Call the Midwife, and it stuck with me so much that I wrote it on the calendar that is on my desk, next to all of the states that require claim acknowledgement letters and phone numbers I can’t remember. I like it when the month ends, all these messy days and scribbles and doodles, and I can move into a new one, turn the page. On the fresh page I write out again the numbers I can’t remember, the states that require those nefarious letters, and I wrote again, Revel in Mercy.
There’s a lot of talk about a gorilla and what he did to a little boy. There was no mercy for the gorilla. The boy is alive. But his parents are being just murdered with characters in twelve point font. There was a woman coming back from the beach with 11 people in an 8 person SUV. And a tire blew. Two babies were ejected from the vehicle, one over a thirty foot wall (and they LIVED)… but that woman who was driving? Four of her daughters died. FOUR. And all I seem to hear about is how she should be charged, how she should be PUNISHED.
Isn’t losing four daughters, four little girls with different smiles and preferences, different birth stories and toddler stories, different futures laid out for them in pink sparkly journals – isn’t that enough? For that woman to go home and to know that the baby lived, but that those bedrooms will never be occupied again? To know that someone will have to do the job of packing up the clothing and the books, the favorite stuffed animal, how every holiday will have a gigantic gaping hole in it, how four times a year there will be a birthday to bear — dear Jesus have mercy.
We don’t live in a place that has a whole of mercy, have you noticed? We talk about how great we are because we’ve worked so hard, when really the cards just were dealt slightly in our favor or we were in the right place at the right time; knew the right person.
We live in a world of keyboards and smartphones, of mob justice, of casting judgement on people we will never even look at from a distance across the supermarket or the street, much less come to know. We live in this space where we think that our opinions are what matter and that justice is what is important.
I can’t see the justice in blaming parents because a slippery toddler fell into a terribly unsafe enclosure. My God, I am amazed sometimes that my children are so intact for all the hijinks they get up to. Who am I to judge those people?
I can’t see the justice in blaming a woman because her front tire blew, in people saying that the tire blew because the vehicle was overloaded — by what? 60 pounds? Come on. Tires blow all the time, that’s why I have to send claim acknowledgement letters, and when you lose a front tire going 70 mph on the highway the situation is deadly no matter how many people you have in your vehicle.
We went to an ice cream social tonight, and our little Lacrosse player was nominated for a few awards and took silly pictures with her teammates after the coach gave a speech and joked about making the girls run when they display that feminine talent of speaking and listening at the same time.
The social was at the home of one of the coach’s grandparents, one of those big ones right on the lake. And I sat in a metal chair and I felt so out of place. I felt like I didn’t belong, like I was constantly making a face as I gazed across the lake and soaked in the green of the trees and the laughter of the children — and the multi million dollar homes just a few miles from where children are living in a campground because it is finally warm enough to leave a shelter.
I’m not sure where the mercy is there.
A revel is a party of gigantic proportions, to revel is to wallow, is to roll and luxuriate, to surround one’s self. I’ve experienced a revel of mercy lately, I’ve watched, many times with knees shaking, how when we open ourselves to the world the world mirrors back to us who we are.
When we revel in something we take it in to our very souls. My mother revels in photos of her granddaughters, thousands of miles away in the US while she travels to work in the UK and we are still sleeping. I revel in beautiful words on paper, the laughter of my children, the smell of bleached towels (I’m weird).
I don’t know how, but am called to make this revel happen – this Mercy Party. I am called to offer this grace. And you are too.
Whatever your thoughts on capitalism and expensive houses, whatever your thoughts on gays or shared restrooms – you have to admit that we could all use a little more mercy on a daily basis.
We can do mercy in small ways. I will give you one example and then leave you alone:
I went to my neighborhood store the other night, you know the one, where you drop 40 bucks every. single.time — no matter if you just went in for milk. I was checking out and the woman didn’t say a word to me as she scanned my items. No hello, no how are you tonight? I was taken aback, frankly. I turned it over in my head as she scanned silently, militantly. I wondered what sort of things had happened that day to her as she literally tossed my bagged groceries at me (even my 7 year old noticed, she was looking at me with big eyes and an open mouth like, what the hell is wrong with this lady!?).
I thought as she scanned, I had to think fast, and that is hard for me right now, but I persevered. I thought about the mercy that has come my way. I thought about my dear friend Jan saying the things to our friends that I cannot say. The boss who is so busy but cleared her calendar to come down from up north, just to see me and take me to lunch, the funny cards that she told my team they could write to me, how they wrote those cards, knowing only me and not what had happened. I thought about a little girl named Trinity who asked me to pick her up, though she did not know me, on one of the worst days of my entire life, how I was aware that I was holding THE Trinity in my arms – the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit – the message that was in the name of that child.
The lady at the store barked my total at me and I swiped my card. I picked up my bags and I looked her right in the eyes. I said, thank you Priscilla, I hope you have a good evening.
Because that is mercy.
I am not normally a very good role model, but that one time I was.
There is this song in Les Mis (yes, I am still on that tangent) and it talks of the wretched of the earth — these people EXIST. And they are your neighbors, the one who looks like me and talks like me but whose inner life you don’t know about. They are the person scanning your groceries. They are the refugees and the homeless, the addicted, the imprisoned, the little children living in campgrounds for the summer. They are the people who have hurt the people that you love.
Mercy is required, friends. We should start a school for it, swap stories where we acted out of character, teach each other how to do this thing.
Teach each other that love is not enough – mercy is something else, and something also required.
I love you still. I just can’t stop.