Lately I have been thinking a lot about mercy. It is one of those things that we like but I wouldn't say I always fully understand it.
In relationship to the Word of God, what is mercy, being merciful, etc? Before we go there though, lets look online.
The online definition:
1. Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within
one's power to punish or harm.
2. An event to be grateful for, especially because its occurrence prevents
something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering.
Ooooh, I like the sounds of those. They sound like they could have come right out of the New Testament describing the Father God, or how our relationship with Him works.
Which leads into my next thought perfectly. I've been thinking more about how the Father God parents us as His children, and how I should be paralleling/modeling that in my own parenting venture. With two small toddlers, how do I act out what I am receiving from the Lord near daily!
Before we explore that I should mention though, that I'm a rule girl. I like rules. I probably would have done very well as a Pharisee in the Bible. I would have most likely been like Saul, who saw people 'breaking' the rules by preaching Jesus, and been onboard with projects to bring those 'rule breakers' to justice.
Now that I've said that, let me just say that I have learned a lot about grace and mercy being in the body of Christ and having Holy Spirit as my personal mentor on such things. My heart is so thankful for the Spirit's instruction on what does not come naturally for me.
However, rules are not bad. Instead, I've learned that they can become damaging when there is no love or relationship involved. Rules for the sake of rules can wound people. Rules in place to prevent people from harming themselves and others are different.
When the children (us) come to realize that the rules (that God gives us) are there to keep us safe, happy and whole, then it makes it easier for us to embrace the rules, even without the threat of a direct punishment. Every rule the Lord gives us is for our own good. I have learned that in theory and I have walked it and learned it in real life as well. He is a good Father who wants the best for us completely, He is not just a rule-maker who wants to control us.
So again I say, how do I teach that to my children?
As a parent, I make a lot of 'rules' and I have consequences associated with the rules that are broken. It keeps peace, sanity, and order in my home, and my children for the most part thrive because they know what to expect from me. Then there has been the introduction of mercy into the mix.
Mercy from the Lord is present in my own life, and I have been trying to introduce it into my children's lives as well. It is something that I want them to know about the Lord, so I need to show them what it looks like. The challenge is how, so here are a few things I have tried.
Mercy certainly shows up when they are sick. They don't have to clean up toys, they get snacks even when the didn't eat all of their dinner (healthy snacks of course), and they get to sit in my lap even when they are fussing and whining (usually fussing/whining happens in our rooms alone until we can compose ourselves).
Yet I have been trying to show it in other ways too. Like when I know we have had a hard day, all of us, and I would usually require them to clean up toys, but instead I clean them all up for my girls so they can go to bed. When they see me cleaning, they sometimes get alarmed, because trading chores is a consequence in our house for when they refuse to clean up/do their own chores. If I clean up their toys for them because they refused to clean up, then they have to do one of my chores later (typically scrubbing a floor or weeding the flower beds).
Mercy days work different though. I clean up their toys without asking them to trade with me. I didn't ask them to do their share of the work, I just did it all to bless and love them. Kinsey is still a little baffled as to why I would ever do such a thing or what gets leads up to me giving them a mercy day.
Here is another example. Last night was a rough late night. So this morning I showed Kalei mercy by not making her finish her dinner from the night before. She got oatmeal, same as Kinsey. That stirred up a great discussion between my four year old and me that really got me thinking hard about what mercy is.
She asks, "Why doesn't Kalei have to finish her dinner? Why does she get oatmeal like me?"
My reply was, "It is a mercy day, we were up late, and so Mommy decided to show mercy by allowing Kalei to have the same as you."
Some would look at this and say - that is unfair. They would be right. Mercy is not fair.
This is actually what it is all about. We don't get what we deserve. We get the same as those who have followed the rules all the days of their lives.
Look at the New Testament.
Prostitutes and sinners were entering the Kingdom of God ahead of the Pharisees, and the prodigal son got to share in the inheritance with the brother who had stayed behind and worked diligently.
Oh how that chaffs the flesh, even my own. Even now.
Another story of this is the landowner and the vineyard (Matthew 20) where the landowner goes out and hires the first crew in the morning to work for a certain wage. Then went out and hired more people at all hours of the day to work the remaining portion of the day. Then when he paid the workers, he paid them all the same wage, even those who had only worked one hour! The first workers were indignant, and I love what the Landowner says.
"Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?" (Matthew 20:1-16)
Oooh, it still chaffs my flesh, but my heart (which is being renewed through Christ daily) rejoices in the fact that we do not get what we deserve. If life was fair, then we would all be on our way to Hell, and I say that with an overwhelming since of gratitude for the Lord's mercy toward us.
So what is my point? Well I guess my reason for writing about the subject of mercy was more to organize my own thoughts on the subject rather than to instruct anyone. I'm no expert, lets be clear on that note.
When something has been splashing around in my mind for days, weeks, and so forth though, sometimes it just helps to write it all out. While at the same time putting that writing in a place where others who might be thinking/wondering about the same subject can find it and ponder further with me.
Process with me on this one. If the Father God shows us such great mercy and tender compassions, then how can we teach that to our children without forsaking rules/consistency in our homes? How can we teach them the rules and still show mercy?
Although my children are still quite young, I think I can start introducing this idea of mercy in the home even now, and with vision from Holy Spirit I can see it blossoming into even more beautiful pictures of grace and mercy as they grow. I want to illustrate the Father's heart toward us as my girls get bigger and can grasp the concept more, but I want to start here and now too. They are sponges, and these are the foundational ideas of what it means to build a relationship with Christ.
My kids are not to young to understand love, they are not too young to understand consequences, and so they are not too young to grasp mercy, especially in its simplest form - that we do not always get what we deserve.
Thank you Jesus for Your mercy!
Got thoughts? Questions? Constructive comments? on the subject, I would love to hear them.