Severe Mercy

Isn’t mercy supposed to be a relief? In my mind mercy is getting to take the easier road. Mercy is a relief, a pardon. But what if mercy is the harder road? What if the merciful path is actually more difficult? Is that even possible?

I was recently introduced to the phrase “severe mercy” and it has stuck with me ever since. I can’t get it out of my mind. What if God’s mercy is sometimes (or always?) a severe mercy? This isn’t surprising, per se, especially when one considers the cross, but it doesn’t necessarily make sense either. The difficult times in are life are just that; difficult. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean life gets easier or clich├ęs suddenly become the norm, in fact it gets harder. Life can be really stinking hard. What if this is a good thing though? The old adage is true: hindsight really is 20/20. Am I supposed to find comfort in the fact that everything will make sense at some point in the future?

Sometimes I forget the trauma of the cross. I forget that it was gut-wrenchingly brutal. That the fact that Jesus was crucified was actually a stumbling block for new believers – no one could believe that God would endure that. Still, death in and of itself can be pretty easy, but that’s why being a Christian can be so difficult – the story doesn’t end in death, but life; and that is really hard to work through. How do I love with the love that loved through death? (does that sentence even make sense?) How do I celebrate, rest, and accept God’s severe mercy when it is actually much more difficult than apathy or death?

Manhatten, Canadian Owls and Clive Staples

Photo Credit: National Geographic

  • Did you know that there are glaciers the size of Manhatten?
  • Have you ever seen Killer Whales use a synchronized attack to drive a seal into the water?
  • Have you ever seen the life below the sea freeze in Antarctica?

What do these questions have to do with anything, you might ask (except to reveal once again that I am a nerd)? I recently watched a documentary on cold weather things: penguins, seals, killer whales, glaciers and the like. As someone who vehemently dislikes the cold – yet another example of God’s providence that I did not go to school in Boston, what was I thinking?!?! – I try to avoid all first-hand experiences of God’s glory in the cold. However, HOLY COW! this stuff is crazy. And by crazy I mean, “screams ‘There is a God and He is really creative, smart and has a sense of humor'” – I mean have you seen the face of a Canadian Arctic Owl? You’re welcome.

As my sister will tell you, I am not a hippie. (But she is and don’t let her convince you otherwise – just ask her to talk about dirt and rocks, but only if you have a few hours) I can only imagine how much more impressive nature is to those who understand it, but the cool thing is that “If you are thinking of becoming a Christian […] you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all.” (Thanks again, Clive Staples Lewis) I mean, how great is it that we don’t have to dumb ourselves down to worship God, but the more we know and explore this world, the more fully we can worship Him?!?! Truth is always true. Even when we try to prove it wrong or don’t accept it or don’t know about it. You’re welcome, World, for that great piece of theological exposition.

If you’re struggling to trust God, wondering how He can possibly make your situation work out, or that He is good I encourage you to google anything about nature, the Arctic, desserts, etc. You will be amazed at God’s bigness (yes, that is now a word on this blog) and his incredible attention to detail of things that don’t even bear His image. Once again, I’m wrapping my mind around just how BIG God is. I’ll work on the other stuff in eternity when I can maybe gain some perspective after a few millenia (Is that the plural of millenium? It is now.)

God is Big. Really Big.

Photo Credit to National Geographic

Several times over the past week I have read or been told that God wants to reveal himself to me. Usually, it is told in the context that I will not know His plans, but rather His character, who He is. C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity (I apologize to all of you MLA, APA, etc. crazies who know the proper way to cite a book in a blog, but I do not want to bother looking it up on the internet):

We must not think Pride is something God forbids because He is offended at it, or that Humility is something He demands as due to His own dignity – as if God Himself was proud. He is not in the least worried about His dignity. The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself.

If you have not read Mere Christianity I highly recommend it. It is thought provoking, well written, and addresses many contemporary issues through logical and thorough examination. Rest assured, though I love books and book reviews I will not attempt to summarize Clive, perhaps in 50 years when I have gained some perspective, perhaps.

Though simple, one thing I am learning that God is big. Really big. The fact that my mind “knows” (to a limited extent, as best as I can right now) that God is also good, knows me personally, wants the best for me, is just, all-knowing, etc. is a little too much for me at the moment. I am awestruck at the vastness of God and the thought of knowing Him overwhelms me. I guess that squarely places me in the creature category and that is A-OK with me.

What amazes you? How has God revealed Himself to you recently?