I use the notes app on my phone to write down everything from grocery lists to the titles of the books I’ve read or want to read. But the most important words I record are the ones that come out of my kids’ mouths. For instance, just the other day, eight-year-old Alex told me about how a particular pair of shoes felt on his “foot fingers.” He quickly corrected himself, “I meant toes. I just couldn’t think of the word.” I quickly jotted down his hilarious comment.
Recently, I perused through the old notes and noticed one from four years ago. Jed, age ten at the time, was reading a book to Alex, age three, and instead of reading the correct words on the page, “merry-go-round,” Jed said, “mercy-go-round.” When I reread that note, it resonated with how I feel today in 2020. Currently, our lives often resemble a merry-go-around, and we may lack enough mercy to go around.
Merry-go-rounds may conjure happy images of decorative horses moving up and down as children hold on to the reins and laugh. But there are also those old school, metal merry-go-rounds that still exist on some random playgrounds. The kind that requires one kid to push or pull the device until it ends up spinning so fast another kid’s body launches off the equipment into the air and then slams into the ground. That is, unless someone throws up from motion sickness. One year on our church’s women’s retreat, we found one of those merry-go-rounds and decided to give it a whirl. We discovered that while we still enjoyed the ride, it scared us a lot more than we remembered.
This year has often made us feel like we are hanging on for dear life to an old, rickety, metal merry-go-round while it spins at light speed. With all of the social isolating, quarantining, zooming, staying home, canceled plans, social unrest, election madness, and the rest, it’s been one crazy, wild ride. We’ve experienced extreme levels of anxiety, depression, uncertainty, fear, and toxicity. And we’ve felt less kindness, understanding, and unity than we would’ve hoped for in the face of global crises.
To give mercy is to show compassion or forbearance, especially to an offender or one subject to one’s power. (Merriam-Webster.com). Often, we don’t realize that anyone is subject to our power because that sounds formal, as though we hold an official position over someone else. But we have more power than we think. We have the ability to hurt people with our words and actions, which can do more damage than we might think possible.
Or we can show mercy. We have the power to be gracious and generous. We can choose to love even when we don’t really feel like it. We can hold back instead of saying exactly what we think when our words would be cruel or hurt another’s feelings. We can act in a way that is inclusive and welcoming.
Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36. We experience God’s mercy every day. God loves us and shows grace to us when we make mistakes. All of us carry more burdens today than usual. We have endured more pain and angst than normal. This time in history calls for us to demonstrate great amounts of mercy to one another. We must choose to care and love each other. Now more than ever, Jesus’ words echo with importance. Be merciful. Lord, help us to be merciful.