I want the world to be a better place. The place it could be if we all lived our faith, knew our value, and loved our neighbor. Maybe I am delusional for thinking this is possible. If I am, please don’t tell me. I will cover my ears and close my eyes because I really need to believe that we all want this – no matter how unattainable it sometimes seems. Most of us know we can do better and that things could be better.
I don’t think it requires a lot either. You don’t even have to sing Kumbaya. You just need to live the four-letter word. (Um, no, not that word!) The nice one: love.
Love in its truest form is sacrifice, service, and mercy.
Its strength is in its softness. It looks less like a Kay’s Jewelry commercial and more like caring for the sick, comforting the sorrowful, and feeding the hungry. Sometimes it looks tired, sometimes joyful. Sometimes it feels sticky like a toddler hug and sometimes icky like an impromptu kiss from your dog. Love gives life meaning and survives death. Often it’s messy, and always it’s worth it.
Love is what compelled Jesus to sacrifice his life for a bunch of sinners like me. I don’t for a second think I am worthy of his sacrifice, but mercifully he disagrees. I know he tires of my constant questions, same old sins, and winding prayers that vacillate between accepting his will and cajoling mine. Anyone else would have been driven to the bottle or banged his head on the pearly gates. But not Jesus. He just keeps on loving and showing mercy without the whiskey or the head banging.
I have known God’s love my entire life, but it wasn’t until I turned forty that I learned about his mercy. That’s the year that in lieu of a more scintillating mid-life crisis, I practiced the 14 corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means. I explain it here. Works of mercy are a list of how to live God’s greatest commandment to love our neighbor. I voluntarily went to prison, served at soup kitchens, and wrestled with forgiveness. My experiences were so impactful that I wrote a book about them, and I am working toward publishing it.
Stepping out of my comfort zone and serving the hot mess that is his people was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. When I began I had no idea what mercy meant, nor all it would come to mean. But now I get it and I feel like I have this amazing secret that I want to share. I unequivocally believe in its power to change lives. It’s changed mine. If you are open to it, it can change yours, too. Understanding mercy has allowed me to know love in an entirely deeper and more meaningful way.
So that’s what I write about: love and mercy. It sounds so frilly that I’m even tempted to hum the tune of kumbaya. But the realities of showing love and mercy probably have more in common with the heavy metal music of Metallica. It takes grit and often, feels like a grind. No one really likes to talk about those messy parts, but I do. Ultimately, I know they lead to grace.
Love and mercy are really the only two things I know with any certainty. Everything else feels fleeting, subjective, and ultimately, insignificant. I try to be super honest about the fact that I know little else. Considering I am a mother, writer, and wannabe world-saver, that’s a little scary. But then I think love and mercy can carry me through absolutely anything.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” To this I must add, through love and mercy.
I so hope you will stay, not as an observer, but as part of a community who has enough faith in ourselves, in humanity, and in God to believe this is possible.
Mercy Me! I’ve got work to do. . . .