If you don’t know me personally, you will get to know me well through this blog. And, you will get to know the organization I work for, Growing Hope Foundation. I will share with you what we are doing to grow hope in the world, but more importantly, I will share with you why we want to grow hope. The answer to that question might seem simple enough, but it’s really not. It’s really rather complicated.
To that end, I want to begin my blogging journey by sharing with you a story from when I was a kid, when I was in third grade, to be precise. Now, if my daughter, Harper, was to chime in, she would tell you what happened when I was in 3rd grade – “Yeah, I know mom, Jenni Zupan moved to town!” Jenni Zupan who became my best friend, who I remember playing statue maker with, doing flips on her bed during slumber parties, writing a song called “Wild Cats” and, most importantly, Jenni Zupan, who had on her bedroom wall a poster of Shawn Cassidy.
But, the story that I don’t tell very often happened the night of my birthday that year Jenni Zupan moved to town. Although this particular story doesn’t have to do with Jenni Zupan, but with another little girl. And, it isn’t a happy story, which is probably why I don’t tell it that often. But, I’m going to tell it now.
It was, as I said, the night of my birthday, my ninth birthday. I had had a birthday party with some girls from my class. It had been a good party – that was the year I got my stuffed elephant “Snowball” and my Snoopy mug, which I still have. Yet despite this fantastic party, as I lay in bed that night, my mom came into my room only to discover me crying. “What’s wrong?” she asked, having no idea why I would possibly be upset after such a terrific day. I told her that there was a girl in my grade named Renae who didn’t seem to have any friends, and who was picked on quite a bit by other kids. I had pondered inviting her to my birthday party, agonized over it, really, but in the end, to save face with my friends, I had decided against inviting her. And, as I lay in bed that night, the party over, the opportunity gone, I was faced with enormous regret that I could have been the only girl who invited Renae to a birthday party that year. I had not come through and I was ashamed of myself. She moved away at the end of third grade. Today I don’t remember her last name, but if you were to show me pictures of a thousand nine-year-old girls from 1979, I can guarantee you I would be able to pick her out right now.
As I look around the world today, it seems to me that there are a lot of folks who want to make a difference in this world, who know there are people that struggle and wish there was something they could do to alleviate their suffering. I think there are a lot of folks who realize that we need to help bear one another’s burdens as we go through this life. But, sometimes I think we can feel a little stymied by trying to figure out just how we are to go about bearing one another’s burdens. “How can I, one person, make a difference in the world?” It’s a huge question. Sometimes we may not even know where to start. I would encourage you today to start with one word – mercy.
Of all the positive attitudes that we can demonstrate to one another on a daily basis – kindness, humility, gentleness, patience – I would say the most underrated, but the one that could affect the greatest change in the world, is mercy.
Being merciful means walking in someone else’s shoes to understand why their life looks the way it does. Have you ever heard this statement: “There but for the grace of God go I”? That is a statement rooted in mercy. What it means is, “however broken that person appears to be, it is only by the grace of God that I am not currently experiencing that same kind of brokenness.” But, that statement also acknowledges the fragile nature of life, and the reality that tomorrow, our lives could look just as broken.
Mercy doesn’t find value in judging; instead, mercy stoops down to try to really understand people’s brokenness and then mercy tries to help bind up the broken. Mercy is about moving forward. It’s about leaving the past in the past and reaching for the hope that is found in the new day that is dawning.
This is the gift of God in Jesus Christ – that God saw our brokenness and instead of condemning us for it, rescued us from it. From Romans chapter 5 – “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is mercy. And, it is life-changing. The world is quick to indict but slow to ask why did this happen. The world is quick to pass judgment but slow to ponder if there’s something that could have been done to help. The world is quick to call someone worthless but slow to figure out if maybe there might be something of value there.
We can dare to show mercy to others, because we ourselves have been shown great mercy. In scripture, Jesus said, “I tell you who hear me: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you, lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Did you catch that? God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. He calls us to be merciful. We leave it up to God to judge. Our job is to show mercy.
Mercy will help you understand the complexities of life; mercy will help you see what role you might be able to play to make a difference; mercy will help you see beauty among the ashes.
The night of my 9th birthday party changed my life. It is possibly the first, and definitely one of the most powerful, moments of regret in my life. I vowed that night that I would try to make a difference in the world for those who are hurting. And I believe with my whole heart that the ability to make a difference in the world starts with mercy.
I want to thank you for reading my first blog post. Don’t expect that all my posts will be this heavy, but I wanted to begin with a message of purpose. I can get a little goofy, too, now and then, and you will discover that if you continue to follow my blog, which I hope you will. Until next time, my wish for you is that you have contentment for today and hope for tomorrow.