Monday, April 15, 2013

"How mercy looks from here..."

"When you face your greatest fear --
losing all that you hold dear,
open up your eyes my dear.

That's when boundless grace appears,
unseen angels hover near.
Saints are singing loud and clear,
"Oh how mercy looks from here..."

The title track from Amy Grant's new CD "How Mercy Looks from Here," came to me with such gentleness.  It fluttered  against my heart like a whisper, upon hearing the first news out of Boston this afternoon.

The call to "love mercy," washed over me like a sudden spring shower. It was a soft cleansing -- a baptism of grace -- with each heavy tear.  I found myself praying with this scripture 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?"

To love, really love, mercy.

I realized, that as the immediate expression of God's love, I didn't need the medium of time or human thought-taking to process what I was hearing and seeing. I didn't need to walk through the proscribed steps of shock, anger, sorrow, grief -- to get to the place of forgiveness and mercy.

I could stand still -- nevertheless poised, calm, and sure of God's love -- in the midst of human drama. I could center myself in what I knew about power of peace, while being buffeted by emotional storms. I could refuse to be threatened by fear -- the fear that all we hold dear is vulnerable and so easily shattered by violence -- focusing instead on the presence of kindness, compassion, courage, and selflessness right in front of me. Nothing could distract me from seeing Love, God, in action.

Mary Baker Eddy once wrote:

“No evidence before the material senses
can close my eyes to the scientific proof 
that God, good, is supreme.
Love is especially near in times of hate, 
and never so near as when one can be just 
amid lawlessness, and render good for evil.” 

This statement was a lifeline in the days following the Columbine High School shootings in 1999. It helped me stay focused on the evidence of good all around us during long days spent counseling students, parents, faculty, staff, and neighbors at a nearby church. They'd opened their doors to those who were seeking pastoral care and counseling -- and those of us who were privileged to serve.

Over and over again I could hear the song of angels as a caregiver opened his/her heart to someone in need. Few volunteers were prepared for what they faced, but they were there day-after-day -- on their knees in humble affection and service -- silent, prayerful, willing to listen, and hoping to bring comfort. And almost invariably we were led by the Holy Spirit to turn one another towards the light of Love -- the indomitable power of compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. This was the inner reservoir that each of us -- volunteer and "victims" alike -- drew upon to find freedom from anger, resentment, anguish, and fear.

Nothing -- and no one -- can close our eyes to the presence of love in the midst of hate, mercy when revenge screams loudest, courage where self-preservation seems most instinctual, and compassion in the face of fear's vain alarms.

I've learned that it's pretty easy to "love mercy" when we are the ones who have said something hurtful, done something unkind, or made a mistake that affects others. But to "love mercy" -- when we feel so sure that forgiveness is the last thing the recipient deserves -- well, that's divinity embracing, and elevating, humanity. And perhaps it's the kind of transcendent love that Mary Baker Eddy is talking about when she writes:

"Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return. Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it. The wintry blasts of earth may uproot the flowers of affection, and scatter them to the winds; but this severance of fleshly ties serves to unite thought more closely to God, for Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven."

In these times of trial -- when there is an invitation to be shattered by events that make no sense -- we can allow something larger to break forth into being. To begin to unfurl the soft-winged dove within us. And a new sense of love breathes itself into life.

Divine Love takes what seemed shattering, and reclaims it for a holy purpose -- a bursting forth. It releases us from the shell of who we thought we were -- with its false limits of loving, our "thus far and no fathers," to reveal what is inherent, divinely natural, ever-present -- our infinite capacity to understand and forgive. To love mercy.

It'a not always easy, but this call to "love mercy" offers us an extraordinary lens on humanity and divinity -- coincident within us. Since, as Eddy says, "Love alone is Life," when we take back our right to love, we lay hold on our divine right to live fully.

Tonight I pray we all glimpse something of this miracle in ourselves and one another. I can't think of anything more empowering and beautiful -- or more healing.

offered with Love,

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