Mercy in the Darkness

What does mercy look like when the person who did the hurting doesn’t acknowledge it? Doesn’t remember? Maybe chooses not to remember? What if knowing that he was hurt too isn’t enough?

See, every year about this time, I feel a contradiction. The weather gets cooler even in Texas (eventually) and the leaves change color.  The pumpkins start showing up among the produce. And I love all that. But it’s also the time of year when ragweed grows. And my body reacts to its harmless pollen as if it is attacking me. As if it can hurt me. My head aches, my eyes water, and I blow my nose until it’s chapped. I try to laugh it off. Try to convince everyone that I’m actually not a carrier for the plague as I sneeze and reach for another tissue.

And I’ve started to wonder if there’s more to it. Is my body remembering old wounds? Times when something that seemed innocuous suddenly wasn’t? Is that even possible?

I don’t know. But now more than ever, I know that the body isn’t disconnected from the soul, from the spirit.

And either way, I’m trying to keep breathing. To have the courage to feel what I’m feeling and remember what I’m remembering. Which is stuff that’s devastating and that still has tentacles that touch today. Stuff that’s easier to put in a closed drawer and leave there.

Somehow, being honest about what happened when I was too young to know how to speak up for myself helps mercy matter. It doesn’t make it easier–I don’t think it ever gets easy. But it makes it more real. It makes it a battle worth fighting again and again. Not because it feels like justice. The part of me that wants retribution is still there. But there’s something underneath. Something truer. Something sacred. Something pure. I think it’s grace.

Postscript.

I was sitting in my living room gazing at my screen one Sunday evening after liturgy last fall. I hit save and considered whether to keep writing or call it a night. It was getting late and I was tired after a long day. Then the doorbell rang. After ten o’clock. Which was a little weird. My heart beat faster as I pushed my barking dogs aside and looked out the front door. A young man was bending to lay down on the porch, muttering something I couldn’t make out. 

Kyle left for the airport hours before so I was alone. With obviously empty houses on either side of mine.

My mind assured me that he was most likely harmless. Just someone drunk or high or confused. I pondered what to do as he moved to sit in one of the chairs on the porch, ringing the door bell again, still mumbling. Who was he talking to? Probably himself. But were there others out of sight in the shadows? If another person were home with me or if I could text my old neighbor Lobo to come over and see what was up, I’d have asked him if he was lost or needed bus fare. But as it was, it seemed better to let the police talk to him; make sure he wasn’t a danger to anyone including himself or me. So I dialed, heart pounding. As I spoke to the dispatcher, he rang the bell again and again. And again. The woman heard through the line. “Is that him ringing again?” It was. At this point, I figured, it should be obvious that if people were home, they were choosing not to open the door. What was his deal?

Finally, the police came. Made him take a sobriety test. And, a very long while later, they drove away without a word to me. It was after midnight by this point. I couldn’t tell if they’d taken my visitor or not and when I called the police to check, no one knew. So was he down the street? Would he be coming back? They’d ask one of the officers to call and let me know. I tried to sleep. And I wondered…

Coincidence? Maybe. But sometimes, it seems, the darkness talks back.

And yet. And yet. I don’t believe the shadows win. There is another Voice that speaks. Another invitation remains to mercy that is extravagant.

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…” 2 Peter 1:19

starry night

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