My plan this week was to share a really cool mercy story from the Bible about a man named Joseph who offered mercy to his really ornery and some might say, evil brothers. His brothers, who threw him into a pit, sold him into slavery and hoped to never hear from him again. But….. I think I will save that one for next week!
This week I will share about the day Nathan and I came across the words “Severe Mercy.”
I would have never put those two words together and if I hadn’t been living in the reality of it, I’m not even sure I would have “gotten it.” But I did get it that day…..because I had already spent one year living in the reality of it. Severe mercy that is.
The old man who approached the couch Nathan and I were sitting on was a complete stranger. Neither one of us knew he was one of the keynote speakers at the conference we were attending in Florida. The gray-haired, outspoken man kindly asked us if he could sit by us. His voice was warm, deep and penetrating. Definitely a radio voice.
As soon as the stranger made himself at home on “our” couch, he began to inquire about “our” story. (Because everyone has a story) The questions he asked were not ordinary stranger questions. No, these were “I am trying to pull your story out of you” questions.
The problem…..I was not sure I wanted to tell this stranger our story.
I resisted, looked at my husband who shook his head yes, and then out it came. Thankfully those five minutes of me puking up the pain of the previous year were not recorded. However, the look on this man’s face, which we discovered was a theologian, seminary professor and radio personality, will be one that is etched into the hardware of my memory forever.
His eyes were tender. His voice sincere. My ears were open as if God were going to speak-
“Honey, you are a preacher and if I wasn’t such a cynical old man, I would be crying.”
Now, if you knew what I had disclosed to this man, you would know the complete absurdity of his response. Because, we all know, women who commit adultery are not preachers.
Or are they?
Steve Brown looked at my husband and asked one simple, fair question, “How have you handled this?” Nathan’s reply was just as simple, “I have forgiven her and I delight to offer her mercy.” With that, Steve paused for a moment and said,
“That’s some severe mercy.”
I don’t remember the closing words from that conversation. My head was spinning, my heart was screaming…… but my spirit…….my spirit……….my spirit was soaring!
I desperately wanted to believe what that old and cynical theologian said on that sunny Florida day. But I knew I didn’t at that moment. Though a years worth of healing had brought tremendous hope, it was still raw.
Tears flowed. And flowed. More healing came.
The words severe mercy were branded on my heart……… waiting for the day the Lord would release them from my mouth.
When Nathan and I returned to our hotel that evening he confided that his spirit also soared at these words. We hid them in our heart and began to pray.
We still pray.
The idea of Severe Mercy is both terrifying and liberating. I know the questions are vast and complex. But instead of making Severe Mercy a teaching on mercy, will you join us as we continue to share stories that will not only teach us, but amaze us?
Mercy stories are amazing because God is the author of such stories.
Mercy was God’s idea and He pours it out day after day on His children with great delight.
Yes, He finds joy in giving us this undeserved gift and if we lean into His strength when we are being called to offer mercy, we can find joy in it as well.