The sixth chapter of Micah verse 8, states, … “the Lord requires of you, to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.” The phrase, ‘to love mercy’ can be overlooked like a middle-child, yet it waddles up to you, surprises you with it’s penetrating gaze, demanding attention. That phrase means a lot to me, because in high school God allowed me to meet someone who brought it’s meaning to full light.
She was just another mom of just another one of my girl friends, but who quickly became a deep well of kindness. I walked through her door, a hold out from the hippie era with long hair, tattered jeans, and dope in my pocket. I wouldn’t have opened the door, let alone let me get near her youngest daughter. But Mary Anne welcomed me, no strings attached. When her daughter traded me in for the newest model, she kept her door open, and for the next 20 years would be a rich source of encouragement, love and friendship. She was married to a man opposed to her faith, yet she prayed for him unceasing every day of her life. Literally! It’s hard not to sound hyperbolic when you talk about real saints, but it’s true; she taught me how to stay at the throne in the face of little reward, nothing even remotely resembling an answer to prayer. Her relentless faith in the face of indifference taught me how to rest in the presence of God, rest in His definition of prayer, not my stuffy short sighted and selfish version. She suffered under that weight, but I believe it’s what created a merciful love that I ached for, and which pointed me to a grace I didn’t know I needed.
She wasn’t verbal about her faith before my conversion, but I knew whom to call the summer I returned home from college after receiving Christ. New Jersey held no fellowship, and I was on the ropes of temptation, ready to throw in the towel. On the phone I stuttered, struggling through nerves, vulnerable, groping for words, but then… mercy. “Can you come down for a visit,” she asked? Somehow she knew. Once again I was at the door, nervous about speaking, yet was met with a hug, ushered into the kitchen and fed, then handed cassette tapes of a man who claimed to see angels. It didn’t matter what I was listening to, it was enough to coax me off the ledge.
I remember walking outside and watching her in the herb garden, cultivating, caressing the plants, sniffing flowering bulbs. When I walked over she used that moment for a lesson. Come here, rub this between your fingers, like this. Smell it? That’s the way God uses pain, temptations, and other difficulty, so that His scent can push out of us, be caught by others and believed. Coming from her it carried a weight, let me in on part of her secret for extending mercy. But on a deeper level, my heart felt tended and cared for, just like how she flitted around her garden, bringing things back to life in my spirit, through a mercy dripping with love.
That brings it up to 10 years ago, yesterday. That’s when the phone rang, and it was Mary Anne’s son, Jeff. What? My heart stopped. That’s right, it’s real bad. She hadn’t told anyone, and now it’s too far along to treat. A month later Mary Anne was gone. What had she left behind? Her children walked with God. Her husband had begun to attend church in Wyoming, a cowboy Christian place, loving the ambiance and its people. And a long-haired, now no haired ex-hippie minister of the gospel had learned to love mercy, to extend loving kindness in order to point others to the grace of God. God had heard the prayers of a determined saint who understood and believed that to love mercy brings those on the edge away from the brink, and into the arms of God.
Who in your life needs a merciful love today?