At the end of an off-the-charts exhausting day, one that began with a parking ticket, included mishaps galore and wall hangings crashing to the floor, questions I couldn’t answer and tasks I couldn’t accomplish, I was not far from home tonight when I spied in my rearview mirror the flashing of blue lights, signaling I should pull over.
It wasn’t just blue lights I saw. I saw my insurance going up, a bill to pay. I saw another 10 minute delay before I could fall into my apartment and take off my heels. I saw another way to be disappointed in myself, another reason to feel like I can’t keep it together.
I pulled over, rolled down the window, rested my head against the headrest, and waited. He came around the side of the car and I just looked at him. I couldn’t be clever or cute or cool. Maybe my day was written on my face; I’m not sure, but he kindly, humorously chastised me and sent me on my way.
Mercy. The rest of the way home that word rolled around in my head. I had simply been let off, not because of anything I had done or because I deserved it. Someone else had made a choice about how to treat me, and I, with my head leaned back wearily, had passively accepted that treatment.
I would have accepted anything at that point, but that magnanimity came as a shock. I was powerless. I was too broken down to try to muscle my way to a particular outcome. Someone else chose for me, and the choice they made was mercy.
The last few years have been one long meditation on mercy – how deeply I believe in it, how I can show it to others, how God can show it to others. Never have I considered how it could be shown to me. As I walked down the hill from my car to the apartment tonight, I prayed from my gut that someday I would be shown deeper mercy. I have done worse than traffic violations.
If I hadn’t been so weak, would I have been able to accept the gift? Would I have tried to control the situation and manipulated my way into a less gracious outcome? Is our weakness the only place we find the strength to let ourselves be swallowed up in forgiveness?