Sometimes I look at my life, and I don’t know whether hypocrisy or irony is screaming louder. I write about mercy, because I believe whole-heartedly in its power to change lives and, in a broader sense, the world. That is not hyperbole. It is a truth that exists regardless of whether we acknowledge or believe it.
Despite my enthusiasm, doing works of mercy sometimes feels like a struggle. You would think in my zeal, I would embrace them with a “Woo-hoo! Here’s another opportunity for me to serve!” But often my “woo-hoo” sounds more like, “woe is me.”
Frequently the service we are called to do is organic, and, like the produce in the grocery store, organic always costs more. It has always felt easier to serve when I plan for it, choose the capacity, and have had a shower. When someone else’s misfortune interrupts my plans or to-do list, it can be frustrating.
Recently, I took my mom to the doctor, because she was sick. I tried to be peppy about it despite my manic Monday mentality. My mom was pleasant and chatty on the way to her appointment, and, instead of gratitude for her attitude, I begrudged it for being better than mine. After all, I was the healthy one. Why wasn’t I bubbly and bright? Maybe she should have been driving me around!
After her appointment, I took her to the pharmacy and waited while she had her prescription filled. By this point, I had to use the bathroom so badly I figured I had given myself jaundice. I kept wondering why serving is so hard. I wasn’t suffering other than the self-induced kidney conundrum. I read a magazine while I waited. Why was it so hard to do this small thing with joy when my mom has done countless things for me?
The answers vary from my innate flaws as a human to complete culpability that I am despicable. It’s a work of mercy to care for the sick. I write about works of mercy. I feel drawn to them despite their disruption to my day planner. Why isn’t this easy for me?
But maybe the answer to that question doesn’t matter. Maybe what is significant is that I did it anyway.
Of course, I wish I did it more selflessly and joyfully knowing that I was doing something pleasing to God and helpful to my mother. For my own sake, as much as anyone else’s, I wish I welcomed every opportunity to serve knowing that the mercy I extend has been extended to me 1,000 fold by our heavenly Father.
But, I am not there yet, at least not as often as I would like.
My mom thanked me when she got out of the car. Maybe it was because my task was complete, or jaundice had reached my brain, but I felt gratitude. What a blessing it is that my schedule is flexible enough to help her, that I can follow her example of service, that she is alive, and the cadence of her pleasantries, despite her discomfort, was enough to distract me from my selfishness.
While I often feel inept at works of mercy, the rewards of doing them are always worthwhile. Finally, a woo-hoo!
What about you? Do you sometimes struggle with serving others? I guess works of mercy are like working out: you may not always feel like doing it, but you are always happy with yourselves when it’s over.