The minute I go on a diet, or give up something delicious for Lent, all of my focus and energy gets stuck on wanting that: craving Cheetos, obsessing about chocolate. I admire people who can cheerfully do this, offering the sacrifice up to God. But I am not one of them. I get irritable and downright miserable, dragging everyone down around me. I see no grace in that wretched sink hole of my own strength.
Matthew 9:13 says,
But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
I’m learning that if I can focus on mercy instead of sacrifice, I am inspired. Moreover, I feel God’s presence in whatever I set out to do.
Giving up a huge craving begins to feel small when done with His mercy covering me. Suddenly my needy kids become a source of purpose: a place where I can pour out mercy twenty-four hours a day, and still be able to give more. Now the cranky woman at the grocery store becomes a personal challenge: if I shower her with enough kindness, maybe she’ll soften a bit. Instead of avoiding the difficult mom on the playground, I make a bee line for her, hoping to show her a silver lining in the slew of problems she’s always complaining about.
However, what is critical for me to remember in this “campaign of mercy” is that I can only show as much mercy as I’m willing to accept from God. For it all to be genuine, it has to be God’s mercy that I’m extending to others, not my own. If it’s my mercy, that well runs dry fast. Then I’m left feeling drained, unappreciated, and resentful.
God is always ready and willing to pour out mercy. He’ll soak me in it, drown me in it, if I allow Him to. But I have to ask, and I have to ask BIG. If I go to Him with a tea cup-sized request, He will fill that tea cup to the brim. But a tea cup takes minutes to empty. No. I need to go to God with a huge-sized request, a request so large that I’ll need a vessel with wheels to contain it, so I can still move about when He fills it to the top. It may not be as pretty as my tea cup with dainty roses on it, but if I truly want to be a source of mercy to others, I’m going to God with a wheelbarrow!
Do you need a big ‘ole wheelbarrow filled with mercy today? What areas of your life could use a little mercy, poured out by His grace?
Claire McGarry is a mom of three young children, and the founder of MOSAIC of Faith: a ministry through which she offers evening retreats and monthly groups for moms, service projects for kids, and a weekly mommy-and-me program. She posts weekly at Shifting My Perspective where she writes about how Scripture always helps her to see the gifts in the midst of the challenges of motherhood, and life in general.