Under the Mercy
I am thankful that I am under God's mercy. Mercy is the Great Weaver collecting and binding together the scattered and broken parts of our lives into a tapestry of divine love. Chesed is the Hebrew. It means a fierce bonding love as between lovers. Loving kindness is its frequent translation. It is not about pity so much as about passion. It is the love in God that seeks and chooses His chosen people and binds them to Himself.
"Mercy", the oft translated English equivalent, sometimes evokes the notion of forgiveness and fear, as if someone is about to beat you up and you cry, "Have mercy on me!" Yet, when thinking of chesed, we should instead think of a bond, an infallible link of love that holds the created and uncreated realms together. The mercy of God does not come and go, granted to some and not granted to others. It is unconditional. It is always there, underlying everything. It is literally the force that holds everything in existence, the gravitational field in which we live and move and have our being. Psalms 103 suggests, "Swim in mercy like an endless sea." It is God's bond of unbreakable love.
I remember when I was in the hospital following the birth of my first child, Kristen. I lifted her up on that first morning after the excitement of the birth was past. Just Mom and Dad had some quiet moments with her. As I held the back of her head with my one hand and with the other hand extended her little frame to my arms length, I simply beheld her. Our eyes met, and we gazed at one another for long minutes, looking deeply and quietly into one another. A bond was made in those moments that has easily lasted these 23 years. It will last eternally. Kristen and I formed chesed. Such is the "mercy" of God. There was a difference in power between Kristen and me, but that did not matter. We had formed a bond of love. So it is with God.
"Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me." "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice." "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your God." "He redeems your life from the grave and crowns you with mercy and loving kindness." "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness. "
"Mercy" derives from the Etruscan word "merc"; the words "commerce" and commercial" share this same root. So, at heart, the word "mercy" implies some kind of exchange or transaction. The French "thank-you" is from the same root-- "Merci". I once counseled a person who could actually "see" the exchange as it took place. When we would experience a moment of deep rapport or excitement together over an insight, her imagination would envision a sparkling fairy dust-like light passing between our two hearts in a figure eight. I did not see the light, but I felt a happy, warm glow in my chest. I thus affirmed her more visualized reality. Sandy Patti sang of the same reality in "It's Your Song".
So we'll send the melody right back around
and make a perfect circle with the sound.
Feel free, therefore, to experience God's most passionate bonding love as a Tinkerbellian spray of light, a strange Weslian warming of the heart, or a circuit of singing in your soul. But whatever you do, please "know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:19. And then, give thanks.
Insofar as we are able to entrust ourselves to it, the Mercy is able to move us steadily toward a wholesome and life-giving letting go. It was not my spirituality training that introduced me to perhaps the most often spoken cry for mercy on the planet. Herbert Benson M.D. was a researcher in the 1970's who popularized his studies on the parasympathetic nervous system in his book The Relaxation Response. At a conference he led in Richardson, he taught us that the Jesus Prayer arose in his research as the most powerful of tools enabling people to turn off the fear and stress response and turn on the relaxation response. The Jesus prayer is a Biblical prayer famous for getting Jesus' attention even when he was distracted by large crowds. "Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me!"
MAT 9:27 And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.
MAT 15:22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
MAT 20:30-1 And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.
A tradition of meditation arose early in Christendom that utilized this prayer phrase as a focal point for concentration as the disciple sought earnestly to arouse the sense of God's presence. Accompanying this article is my more extended explanation of its practice. In light of our discussion of the Mercy's chesed above, perhaps we can imagine amplifying this cry to imply "Lord Jesus, be bonded with me. I need your energy and grace to flow through my heart and soul. I need and trust in your love." Indeed, it is the testimony of many that a holy bonding love flows when the Jesus Prayer is rehearsed. Blessed is He.
So may the steadfast love of the Lord never cease in you. May His chesed never come to an end. May you become aware of its newness every morning. Great is His faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
by Troy Caldwell, M.D. with many borrowings from Mystical Hope by Cynthia Bourgeault