By Helena Epstein
When I hear the words “love mercy,” my initial instinct is one of pride. Who doesn’t love Mercy? Mercy is shown in acts of heroism and reconciliation and restoration. It is quiet gestures of care and attention to friends or lovers, to chubby-faced children who can’t feed themselves. It is the same for wizened, velvet-skinned old women who can’t remember their husband’s name, but still smile when he walks in the room.
Who doesn’t love Mercy?
Then I am challenged by The Holiness of it. The shadow side of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is the lurking question, “Why do good things happen to bad?” Because if I love Mercy, can I love when a drunk driver survives a car wreck and his victims do not? Can I love mercy when a mean and angry destitute woman is surrounded at her death bed by children she long ago abandoned and (even though they come) not a tear is shed? If I love Mercy, then what does it mean that sometimes I think there is too much or too little of it?
In reality, Mercy, or the Hebrew Chesed, is an attribute of God. As an attribute of God, the only thing I really understand about Mercy is that I don’t understand it. Any pride I have is misplaced, because any Mercy that I either witness or experience is because it comes from God through this world. Truly loving mercy means having the willingness to trust that it is enough.
We do not earn Mercy, and we do not own Mercy. Like the ocean tides, it can be predictable and still wild. God cares for and loves us is with an abandon and abundance that defies my sense of propriety.
To love Mercy is to love all the ways God shows up in the World, especially when it is unconditional and maybe even uncomfortable.
Helena Epstein is a second year chaplain resident at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.