Today is the first day of the year of 2010. A new decade has begun. The last few days I’ve been thinking about what one word I’ve been learning the most about in the year that just passed. My word of the year is slightly different than the word ‘unfriend‘ which New Oxford American Dictionary decided on as word of the year 2009! It was pretty easy to find out. It has been all over the place throughout the year. It’s a difficult concept to grasp. I’m not very good at it. I’ve been mocking it most of my life. Seen it as weakness. God has challenged me this year with the ancient idea of mercy. Mercy, according to my dictionary, is:
“Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm“
I’ve learned a lot about seeing that there are more nuances on the palette of life than the black and white that I’m so comfortable with. I’ve learnt a lot about another word closely related to mercy, it’s the word well-meant. People generally mean well when they make their decisions. Even when they make horrendous ones that have terrible consequences. And in the many day to day decisions people make that can irritate me, I am learning to assume that they meant well when they did it. They didn’t do it because they wanted to ruin their lives (or annoy me!). They did it because they thought, however misguided they may be, that it was the best choice available to them. Sure, we all often make decisions based on our wounds and the flesh patterns we’ve developed because of those wounds on our souls. But we typically don’t set out intending to ruin our lives.
Mercy understands this. Mercy understands that we all make mistakes. Some of us make many. Mercy understands that even people who disagree with me or who choose to prioritize very differently from what I prefer, are people who are loved by God and whom I’m called to love. Mercy understands. Mercy forgives. Mercy gives another chance. Mercy assumes the best even when evidence seems to suggest that people will never change. Mercy is aware of the fact that all people can change. Because there is a God. And he can change the hearts of anybody.
I have also learned some about having mercy on myself. The dictionary definition talks about power. And it’s within my power to give myself a hard time when I make poor choices. I may even feel that justice is served when I hate myself or reject myself. Henri Nouwen reminds me that: “Self-rejection is the single greatest enemy of spiritual life, because it contradicts the voice that calls us the Beloved“, and I don’t want to live in self-rejection. I wan to have mercy on myself too.
I am excited to see what this new year holds. And I’m looking forward to taking more steps down the path of mercy. I need it. I need more healing of my soul. I am thankful that God’s mercy towards me is guaranteed:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
I wonder what word of the year 2010 will hold for me?