"...Oh, mercy mercy me
Oh, things ain't what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land?
How much more abuse from man can you stand?
My sweet Lord...
Oh, ohh mercy, mercy me..."
- Marvin Gaye
When my friend Carol posted this song on her FB page recently I listened to it with new ears. Carol's commitment to Eco-spirituality/spiritual ecology is total, and it is nothing less than I would expect from her. She is a deeply spiritual, highly evolved global citizen, a visionary who has taught me much about "living for all mankind." She is the founder of Inspiration House, a recent graduate of Andover Newton Theological Seminary, and more than all else that recommends her, I trust the integrity and goodness of her heart. We've been friends, colleagues, and sisters for over 25 years and I love the way she thinks...just the way she thinks...takes my breath away.
So when she posted Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Me," I took notice. (I am also including this link to Robert Palmer's version of "Mercy me"...just because I love it.)
I found myself pondering the question, "What is the relationship between mercy and the environment?"
It didn't take me long to discover that I was wandering into pretty scary territory...the sometimes very messy environment of my own thinking. I had to ask myself, "what makes the difference, in me, between a beautifully clear mental "day" and one that is polluted and gray?" And further, "what role might "mercy" play in the shift from one to the other?"
I can't speak for anyone else, but I can speak from my own experience, and mercy plays a huge role. There is nothing more toxic to my inner peace than guilt, blame, resentment, and regret. And there have been times when my inner landscape has alternated between a wasteland of self-hatred, and a cesspool of finger-pointing.
Guilt and blame...holding on to our own, or another's mistakes, poor choices, or indiscretions too often fills the individual, and collective, human landfill with simmering hatred. We bury these wasted, and wasteful, emotions under a thin layer of tolerance, and then leave them to quietly fester and seethe until they soak deep into our relationships, and pollute the once pure ground water of our lives. And thus depriving us, our family, friends, and our global community of the refreshment and nourishment that can only be found in the sacred space of a pure and loving heart, we are self-poisoned by that garbage thinking. Unclipped, or reclaimed - used to develop greater compassion and understanding in us - these buried emotions can choke the innocence we so cherish in one another...and ourselves.
Ahhh....but mercy. Mercy, mercy me.
As a spiritual thinker and Bible student I couldn't consider this topic, and not be reminded of this scriptural demand from Micah:
"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good;
and what doth the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly, and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?"
I don't think any of us would balk at the idea of loving mercy. And most definitely when it is being shown to us in those instances when we have done something we regret. But the real spiritual stretch comes when we see someone else experiencing mercy, especially when we don't think they deserve it...or when they are being shown mercy in a situation where we, or someone we love, may have experienced much harsher consequences, punishments, or rejection...under the same conditions.
But as hard as this is...to "love mercy," it is the very opportunity we are always seeking as spiritual pilgrims and thinkers. It is in this moment of divine demand that we begin making a seismic shift from living a life that is humanly measured, meted out, and circumscribed, to one that is filled with a deep and abiding trust in the power and presence of God...of divine justice. It is here that we allow ourselves to fall deeply into our Father's arms and rest with grace. We surrender our right to be right. And we permit ourselves to truly be the children of a divine Parent who is wholly trustworthy in caring for His/Her family. In this moment we discover that we can truly be a child of God. Not an adult of God who needs to monitor the accuracy and fairness of His judgments. But a child...innocent, trusting, and secure in our peace.
Or as Mary Baker Eddy shared from her own heart in "Love Your Enemies," from Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896:
"The only justice of which I feel at present capable, is mercy and charity toward every one, - just so far as one and all permit me to exercise these sentiments toward them, - taking special care to mind my own business."
Whew! I love the freedom that comes when we let our divine Parent be the arbiter of justice, the gift-giver of mercy...when we trust Him to know the needs of our brothers and sisters and mete out what is best for the whole human family.
Biology professor and friend, Michael Booth recently shared this quote from a pamphlet titled, "Daily Defense" on his Facebook page (does anyone get the feeling that I get a lot of inspiration from FB?) last weekend,
"Love is not sincere until every vestige of feeling
that somebody owes us something is surrendered."
This, for me, is a pretty powerful definition of "mercy"...and love. This is the kind of love that restores the balance of our spiritual ecosystem and begins to change the way we look at how we care for eachother, and the resources we share...as a human race, and, as fellow beings cohabitating with all creation in a divinely bestowed universe filled with beauty and wonder.
The other night, I was talking with another dear friend, President and Founder of the Euphrates Institute, Janessa Gans, who has had a front row seat on one very toxic region of our global landscape...and her insights were arresting. The anger, blame, hatred and violence that she has witnessed, and seen seethe and seep into the bones of its hills and valleys, cities and villages, was heart-wrenching. It plays itself out in international headlines and personal heartache daily, and gets buried in unmarked graves as generation after generation seeks to avenge its ancestors. None of this was new, but what she helped me see, was that each side felt justified in their hatred, each felt that they deserved to be angry, each felt betrayed and dumped upon...the emotional environment of the region was layered with mercy-less retribution, misunderstanding, and retaliation. The answer to the question of "who started what?" was based on what part...geostrata...of the historic landfill you probed. It all depended on which layer of hurt and blame you uncovered at any given moment. Everyone was right, and everyone felt wronged.
This kind of toxic waste is playing itself out across borders, in families, along party lines, beyond reason, and under the cover of dysfunctional politeness...but festering below the surface with hurt and resentment...around the world every day. I can't help but wonder, What kind of role might mercy play if we were to begin to exercise our right to "be merciful" to "love mercy" - impartially and universally - even when we see it being shown to those we think deserve it least? Even when we areperceived as "the ones" that deserve it least? I wonder, what would our families look, and feel, like if we put the demand to "love mercy" way ahead of making our loved ones prove how much they love us, require that they take our side, or answer to us for their mistakes.
It's just a question. But its one that I am taking deep into the space of my own heart...this is the environment I must start with, everything else springs from this landscape...be it a landfill, or a meadow... With God, Love, at my magnum core, I pray that the heat of that molten fire will immolate the dross - the pollutants that seem to be buried in my thinking, and resurrect, redeem, and restore all that is good, useful and healing.
Oh ohhh...mercy, mercy me....
Thanks Carol, Michael, and Janessa...you've kicked my heart into high gear...again!
Kate Robertson, CS