[I know I normally post lighthearted things that are meant to make you laugh, but today I want to make you think. This piece is something that’s been on my mind for awhile, but I finally decided this week to obey that stubborn voice that kept whispering, “Write it!” As someone who struggles with perfectionism, the concept of mercy and forgiveness and being given something without earning it is something of a struggle. Over the past few years, the Lord has been gracious enough to teach me more of what His mercy is truly about. This is just my way of sharing one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned. I hope you’ll read and I would like it if you enjoyed this, but most of all I pray that all yall who read this would realize even a little bit more how incredibly powerful the mercy of Christ is.]
Mercy: We deserve none, and we are given it in unfathomable abundance.
That’s the funny about mercy…the magnitude of it is so great, the value of it so incredible, that we hardly understand it, let alone know what to do with it, but we need it more than anything. And quite frankly, that’s where we run into problems. As Christians living in this evangelical American 21st century culture, it is easy to focus on the Bible-camp basics: You are a sinner and you need a Savior. You are dirty and you need to be made clean. Jesus is the Savior and He will wash you with Living Water, and if you just “accept Him into your heart” then you’re going to heaven when you die, and here’s a pocket-size New Testament and a booklet that tells you to read the book of John when you get home from camp. This is nice and well and good (if somewhat theologically watery), but this does not help us to understand mercy. These fundamentals teach us that mercy allows us to be forgiven, and that God’s mercy is a good thing and He made it available to us at Calvary, but still something is lacking. There is an enormous focus on why we need mercy and all the horrible things we’ve done that make us so undeserving of it, and yet precious little is said to help us understand the magnitude of mercy. It seems to me that there is a terrible misunderstanding in the church today, in which people are under the impression that the mercy of the Almighty fits their sins.
Oh, but if they could see Him shaking His head!
His mercy is not a thimbleful of forgiveness, meted out to each kneeling sinner as he confesses each wrongdoing. His mercy is not a washbasin of water in which our white shirts- created pure and stained by the mud of our own sinful making- are washed and bleached and made pristine. His mercy is not a holy pill men swallow daily to keep sin from re-infecting their born-again lives. His mercy is not a God-sized eraser that rubs away the ugliness from the pages of humanity, smudged with the lead of the sin it removes and whittled a bit smaller with each stroke across the marred pages. His mercy is not a puddle in which we must wash ourselves, contorting and turning and straining to dip each piece of ourselves in the water.
The mercy of God does not fit the sin of creation.
His mercy is a tsunami, washing over the wasteland of sin and carrying out to the darkest depths of the sea. A tsunami does not cleanse a seaside town, it obliterates it- and that, brothers, is what God’s mercy does for us. His mercy destroys our guilt and it drowns the power of sin. Too often I’ve found myself holding out a Dixie-cup to these tidal waves, asking God for enough mercy to cover the grains of sin I’ve so carefully collected in this cup of confession, and just as often I have found myself wondering why I keep bringing that tattered little remnant back, asking God to wash it out just one more time, I promise. It wasn’t until recently that I realized His mercy is far too great to simply fill the buckets of sin that I dig up from my own life. I was trying to fit a tsunami in a Dixie-cup, when He wants to wash away the whole damn beach.
No Dixie-cup is going to hold enough grace to fix the messes I have made. Don’t fool yourself; it won’t fix your messes, either. The mercy of God does not fit the sin of creation, and it is not neatly packaged to be meted out like laundry detergent each time we find that we’ve filled our souls’ hampers with another load of filth. A delicate dose will never do. Mercy is not something we can capture, and it is not meant to be sipped daintily. It is meant to ruin the sin of creation, and there is no evil that can survive the thundering tsunami of God’s mercy. This mercy-tide unleashed at Calvary is so vast it cannot be measured or held, and history echoes with the voices of sinners who find themselves saved- “How wide, how long, how high, and how deep!” This tide will not cease for all eternity; it is uncontainable and immeasurable and unfathomable, and it is far, far, far more powerful than amount of sin you can conjure. And that is the most beautiful thing. We have to run headfirst into that blessed sea and let the current carry us to heaven’s door.
Mercy can be terrifying, because it is so entirely opposite of the guilt we know. The parched wasteland of guilt is familiar, and we convince ourselves to be content with splashing in the shallows. Moments of pseudo-comfort are no substitute for the tsunami of mercy, but we don’t know what to do with mercy that big. We don’t know how to handle redemption. We don’t know how to swim. None of that matters, because the Captain of our souls invites us to walk on the waters with Him. When that tidal wave of undeserved mercy washes over us, it is His scarred hands that will pull us up clean and redeemed. We will dance hand in hand over the ocean graves where our transgressions lie, shipwrecked by the holy storm of God’s grace, and He will lead us home.
Nothing is beyond the reach of His mercy, and it’s when you are drowning in that tsunami that you will find you can finally breathe.
Let Him wash you in the mercy sea.
Let Him wash your darkest hours into the deepest waters.
Let Him wash away the whole damn beach.
When He lifts you to the surface, you will hear your own voice joining the chorus-
“How wide, how long, how high, how deep!”