As I was on a walk with Ellie today, I heard the whisper “Even nature itself arcs toward mercy.” However, my inner-cynic reminded my inner-idealist that not only nature, but life, has its moments of fury.
But today was a mercy day for me. Don’t get me wrong: there were about three temper tantrums, five loads of laundry, four sticky,unidentifiable stains, and one conversation about Cohen getting punched in the face (that will be another blog.) But it was, without a doubt, a day whose overall arc bent toward Grace. (It helps that the “ambient Indie” pandora station playing continuously throughout our house made everything a little bit more beautiful. Seriously, if you want to clarify your mercy specs, just play some Sufjan Stevens and your life will suddenly become a weighty, emotional montage in the closing moments of Parenthood.)
But you know what else has focused my eyes on this overarching trend toward mercy? The realization (or reminder) that I am not the author of it. There is freedom in the recognition that by nature– all things holy, all things grace, all things merciful– all these things are sacred precisely because they are not products of my own ambition or fortitude. Today’s’ mercy was not of my own making– and therefore–hallelujah– cannot be undone by my own making.
I’m not sure when this idea began to weigh on my spirit. I think it might have begun after a conversation with Jacob’s grandma Marilyn a few weeks ago. Marilyn is stoic and strong, she never grumbles, and she is unceasingly patient. The rest of the family had gone on a walk, and I found myself alone with Marilyn in my family room. She was flipping through the pages of one of our shutterfly photo-albums, reflecting again and again about how lucky my kids are to have such great memories. I reminded her that shutterfly albums have a way of polishing up the chaos, but she just smiled and shook her head at me. And then somehow, this normally serious and stoic woman became emotional as she told me about her own mother was, “a woman who worked so hard, every day of her life. A woman who had every right to complain, but never did.” She told me about how she has this memory of her mother walking home from her job at Woolworth’s: “She was probably so tired, but she never complained, not once.” And then Marilyn’s normally stoic eyes grew watery, “She died in 1983, and I still get emotional remembering that.” And then I told Marilyn that I see that same patience and strength in her. And she nodded again, but I’m not sure if she believed me.
But what I really should have said is that all the Mercy in that photo album, all the Mercy my family and I saw and felt on days like today– it’s not the outcome of my own fortitude, but rather the outcome of the strength of the generations and generations of those who have gone before me. Those people who chose Life day after day after day. The great grandma who walked to Woolworth’s, the grandpa who worked at Teletype. The mom who protects and loves my kids, the father who always has time to listen. The husband who is currently duct-taping large cardboard claws on my toddler’s lobster Halloween costume. They are the authors of my Mercy.
And did you know you are currently writing a story of Grace for those who will come after you? Your patience, your sacrifice, your tears and your tiredness– all of the times you have chosen Life– these choices write the script of Mercy that someone– someone like me– will one day live out.
In Nature, in Family, God guides the overarching story of our lives toward Beauty, toward Love, toward Grace. Today’s mercy was not of my making, and there is no chapter of fury that cannot be penned afresh by the hand of the Divine.