Mercy Me

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ~Scott Adams (Creator – Dilbert Comic strip)

I’m told that a batting average of .300 (which in baseball is considered extremely high) means that a guy only gets a base hit about thirty percent of the times he’s at bat.

A medical professional recently told me that the reason medicine was called a “practice” is because it is comprised of “guesses based in scientific facts”. This revealed the medical arts to be much more inexact than I might like to think.

Richard Rohr, a Catholic mystic says that we come to God much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right.

The more maturely we look at failure the more we realize that we need it. Failure is the context in which we are reminded of our humanity and leads us to proper understandings of our need for mercy.

I have learned a great deal from those proverbial strikeouts – that seventy percent of the time (or more) that I swing and never hit anything. I’ve had to recalculate many times in the course of my life when my guesses based on what I thought were facts didn’t yield the expected result. Allowing myself to accept my mistakes, not to mention trying to determine which mistakes to keep and call it art, is a recent hurdle for me.

Coming to God more from doing it wrong than doing it right can be the most confounding of all. Our pride tells us that our doing it right makes relationship with God something that can be achieved. The upside down concept of being driven into the arms of perfection through failure is something that only mercy can deliver.

As I begin to accept the reality that on my best days I only hit the ball thirty percent of the time and that my greatest art is the sum of my best chosen mistakes then I am in a very different place than if I see myself as a baseball hall of fame candidate or the next Picasso.

Our brokenness is where mercy finds us but it isn’t where mercy leaves us.

Mercy flows much more freely from me when I live in a reality that constantly reminds me of my need for it.

Mercy allows me to reclaim myself and reclaim those that I’ve held as hostages in the prison of my resentments.

Mercy is about walking through the wounded world with wounded people and watching what we thought were mistakes become beautiful pieces of art in the hands of God.

Between Black and White

I wrote this week that most of us lose our authentic selves by creating personas that we think our faith requires mistaking those for our authentic selves.

I’m beginning to see how many of us, not the least of which is me have lived with very skewed ideas about who we are and what we are to be about in light of our Christianity. Many of us have experienced a very dualistic faith. Things are either all good, or they’re all bad. People are divided into two groups. Good people and bad people. Saved people and lost people, in people or out people. I’m either completely certain, or I’m a complete agnostic (which really isn’t the exact opposite of certainty but in most circles still carries a very negative connotation).

It seems that it is from within that kind of mind that we begin to create our false selves. We have to. In a black and white faith the only safe thing we can do to fit in is to create the person we wish we were and then try to parade it around in public masquerading as us. Many of us have tried to embrace life in black and white yet life hands us twists and turns for which we are unprepared. Rather than addressing those challenging realities we go into damage control. If we can’t change our realities we try to change the way we present them or at least the way people perceive us to be living with them.

Life is anything but black and white. There are about a hundred scenarios in my life that I could rattle off without taking a breath for which I have no categories or clear grids from which to live them out. I’m not always going to cope with them extremely well and I’m not going to apologize for that anymore. I’m human, a human with every shade of gray inside and outside of my reality. I’m depending on the Holy Spirit to help me sift it out.

True faith doesn’t ask us to abandon our reality or the deepest things about who we are. It asks us to take the things that we are most impacted by and share them. In Micah we read that God has already told us what he requires of us – to uphold justice, to love mercy, and to walk in humility. If being honest about our heart isn’t humility then I don’t know what is. Jesus said that we could sum it all up by showing compassion to one another from a heart that loves God with our whole essence. Nowhere is the gospel telling us to take all the hard truth about our lives and hide it in a box in the basement.

This simple faith doesn’t require me to create a cut out version of me that is pristine and prop it up so that I’ll have credibility.