This morning, I woke up thinking: “Mercy! I must explore mercy!”. Admittedly a bit odd1, but anyway, I went upstairs to my place reserved for being with God, to read the Bible according to some plan I am following, planning to pray about mercy afterwards. The appointed piece of Scripture was about Dinah, how she was raped, and then avenged by her brothers with a lot of violence and treachery. What should I do now with my desire to learn about mercy?
Let me tell you how this story was used to frighten me. In catechism lessons I learned that it illustrates that God does not protect children who do not ask their father’s permission2. There’s a depth of darkness behind this short sentence. Hard to explain all my fears, because the moment I try, I see for myself it is quite nonsensical3. However, as long as the implications are not fully expressed, the unspoken threats have very real consequences. Even now the dreadful fear of doing something without explicit permission numbs me so that it is hard even to feel how angry I am. As I let go of my fear, this anger surfaces, and I suppose therefore God pointed me towards mercy, this morning. Even though my anger is necessary and unavoidable, it needs mercy to be safe.
Thankfully, I have some experience in receiving mercy. I have learned that there comes a point in your life when you realize it’s better to stop explaining. Simply admit the mess you’re in, and come to God just like that, and He truly forgives all and receives you as his child! Things need not be so difficult, the mess is no hindrance for God’s love. Today, this experience enables me to feel my anger at the people who told me such things, completely blind to the logical consequences of their words, nor very interested in my views. I used to be afraid of my own anger, because it seemed to exclude my love for these same people. Remembering mercy helps me combine the two emotions.
Ernest Hemingway once wrote: “As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.” I love this quote, and try to live by this idea. I also love books by writers who do this, as for example Graham Greene. As it happens, my book review of ‘The end of the affair’ shows up most in Google, as a result of searches for “considering an affair”. I like the irony of that, since it may actually help those people. For that book is full of understanding for why one would crave love and attention, and yet it also describes so beautifully how the main character finds God’s love in the midst of much pain. I just hope and pray that those lonely and hurt people who tell the computer that they are considering an affair will find God in their search.
Mercy, then. Have I explored it now? Made clear what it is? Probably not, as it is just a miracle. But I do grasp that the way towards mercy goes right through the pain that is abundantly present in this world. Accepting this mess, letting go of excuses and explanations, may set us free to embrace the joy of mercy.
- I am very much a morning person, and I think the craziest things when I have just woken up, see also my other text ‘A sign of life’.
- As supposedly Dinah had not done. I think my teachers could not think of a possible other explanation for the tragedy. Something like ‘shit happens’ is not a very Christian thing to say.
- Which is an important reason for my writing. It helps me see what makes sense. I am now almost ashamed of ever having believed these 19th century explanations.