Commendation, Condemnation

Picture a courtroom full of strangers. There is a twelve-person jury seated to your right and a stern-faced judge sitting atop a mountain of stained oak panels. You have been called to answer for something that you would rather die than say aloud, let alone confess in the presence of people you’ve never met.

This is the day your secret, the one you’ve protected above all others is going to be brought to the light of day. You’re heart is in your throat. You can barely choke out your own name let alone speak words that address this supposedly shameful truth for which you are about to give an account.

The judge somberly asks if you would tell the court the reason you are before them today. You can’t break the downward gaze that has been your posture since you entered the room. You breathe deeply and exhale the words that you’ve never said aloud in your life.

As you confess you begin to unpack the details, the origins, and the outcome of what you had hoped would never be spoken. You begin to loosen your gaze and lift your head to face what you believe will be the furrowed brow of a judge, the scorn of a jury, and the critical stares of every witness present.

Suddenly, the courtroom erupts in deafening applause. It gets louder as it ricochets from the floors to the plaster ceilings and back into the recesses of the courtroom. It swells like ocean waves and you begin to hear the sound of wood scooting across slate as people are backing out of their chairs and standing to their feet. The judge is beaming as she joins the ovation.

You become overwhelmed with emotion, confusion, and bewilderment.

As the applause dies the judge begins to speak.

“We have been privileged to witness today your first steps into freedom! What you just experienced is called grace. We are not applauding your secret or the dark details that you have hidden from the world. We are applauding your courage because we know that your confession will free you. We are applauding you owning your truth and admitting enough brokenness to seek wisdom from others and forgiveness where appropriate. We are applauding you!”

Every person in that room has had their moment when their secret came to light and every person was equally convinced that they would be shunned, shamed, and shackled for life. Each one experienced that same ovation once they came to the end of themselves and they know that downward gaze firsthand. The joy they experience now with every confession they hear reminds them of their own and fills them with gratitude. In fact, they can’t contain their enthusiasm and they erupt in acclamation.

What if were so keenly aware of our own need for grace that confession by others brought about applause and joy from us? What if the confessions of others reminded us of our own and we were filled with gratitude?

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.