And no I’m not goin all Uncle Jesse on you.
And I’m not referring to various hospitals around the country, either.
I’m talking about the Year of Mercy.
It doesn’t matter if you’re Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, a “none,” or someone just searching for hope and goodness in the world…I think we can all agree: Pope Francis is a pretty strong cultural figure.
He’s kind of known as a “radical” pope, in that some of what he’s said has been picked up by the mainstream media – for being boundary pushing and a catalyst for change: aka the people’s pope.
But one thing’s for sure: he is sharing some pretty provocative messages with the world.
And in case you haven’t heard, he’s dubbed 2016 the Year of Mercy.
And I was doing a lot of reflecting about this recently.
Mercy is something that I feel like, I know what it is, but I can’t really define it. Like, I can explain it in feelings or Italian-esq hand motions, but ask me to pin down the stone cold definition, and I’m SOL.
So I consulted my good old friend, Merriam Webster.
Mercy: “Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm; Kindness or forgiveness towards an offender.”
Forgiveness towards an offender.
Now, obviously, we all know that God is merciful. I mean, we sing it every Sunday in one way or another: “The Lord is kind and merciful.” “Lord, have mercy.” Etc. You get the drift.
And He is.
Micah 7:18 “God…who removes guilt…delights in mercy.”
And let me be clear: I’m not brushing that off, or down playing that in any way, shape, or form. In fact, mercy expresses the height of His power to do all things: to freely forgive us. And it is the most excellent work of His love. But in this Year of Mercy, I want to challenge myself to have a shift in perspective.
But I was thinking about it, and what about showing ourselves mercy?
“Compassion, kindness, or forgiveness shown towards an offender.”
RealTalk: I am an offender.
My anorexia was an offense against my body. My soul. My spirit. Who I am, at my innermost being. This human -me- created by God. It was an attack against my personhood, that manifested itself in withholding the very basics needed for life. I was guilty of that. An offender.
But if I carry around guilt and shame about it, I’m actually denying myself mercy. The mercy already given to my by Jesus on the cross. I’m holding a grudge against myself for actions that have been completely forgiven by God. So how can I not offer that same forgiveness – that same mercy — to myself?
Maybe you haven’t struggled with an eating disorder, but we all have things in our past that haunt us. That we carry around. That we struggle(d) with: gossiping; fidelity; cheating on tests; addictions of various kinds – whether to drugs, alcohol, or online shopping – laziness, out of control anger. We all have things that make us offenders. And this isn’t some “pot calling the kettle” thing. Because the Good Lord knows I’m guilty – an offender – of a whole hell of a lot.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that after a year of truly meaningful progress in my recovery (thanks to the Big Guy), that the Pope would come out and tout 2016 as the Year of Mercy. It’s like a subtle jab to the ribs that, “Oh hey, just in case you forget that you’ve been forgiven by God for your eating disorder/[insert-struggle-here] and all the horrendous crap that went along with it…I’m just reminding you to show that same mercy and forgiveness towards yourself…because you’re worth it.”
The Year of Mercy.