“I’ve made a mess of my life.”
The woman sitting in front of me tried blinking back the tears to no avail. They slid down her cheeks and I could see she was wearing shame like a garment.
I’ve heard this statement a hundred times in prison. This time, I heard differently.
I could see into her hopeless heart. Craving meaning when her life was a train wreck. Crying out for purpose in the craziness she had created with her own hands. This woman was older than my mama and carried a story that no human should ever bear. Raised in a Christian home, knowing the right things to say at the right time, and yet still…she was here. She had walked a path that ended her locked up behind rows of barbed wire and concrete walls for longer than she wanted to admit.
“I’m not supposed to be here. I should be dead. Why would God waste His time on me?”
Her shame and guilt were palpable. I could see it in her shaking hands, sweaty brow and the salty tears streaming down her face. She felt like damaged goods. Hopeless. Unwanted.
What she didn’t realize is that two thousand years ago, the God of Creation saw this moment and chose a cross so He could rescue her from herself.
I reached out to grab her hand. “You wanna know? You wanna really know why you’re in here?” My question seemed to startle her a little, like I was about to give her a verbal pounding about all the ways she had blown it. For the first time in our conversation, her eyes met mine and her face softened. I hope she saw Love there…because that’s what I felt inside. Compassion.
She stared at be blankly, so I took that as a yes.
“It’s called MERCY. Jesus didn’t want to leave you out there in your sin. It’s His MERCY that brought you here so you could know that He loves you and wants to walk with you. He can use your brokenness for His good. He can redeem the years the locusts have eaten.”
The tears came faster now, more like sobs welling up from inside her deepest gut. “Your story doesn’t scare Him. Your past doesn’t define you. He loved you so much that He didn’t want to leave you to destroy yourself out there. This is His mercy.” I recounted the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to her…how God’s mercy is what drove them from the Garden so they wouldn’t live in sin, separated from God forever. His mercy and compassion put them out of the Garden so they could one day partake of redemption.
Then He sent Jesus to be the payment for the sins we couldn’t clean off ourselves. He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. That’s mercy and grace.
There are moments in life when you can actually see the light bulb go on inside someone’s else and this was one of those moments.
“It was mercy….” She whispered. I could see it welling up in her…the gratitude. She was connecting the dots, that the God of the Universe, the One who she had known about since a little child, had never stopped pursuing her wandering heart. He kept chasing her. Kept calling her name. Relentless love.
Her voice stopped quivering. “It was MERCY,” she said louder, “It WAS mercy!” She looked me straight in the eyes, “He. Is. So. Merciful,” she said. I nodded and smiled. She dropped my hand, wiped the tears from her face with her sleeve and lifted her hands in the air. “It was MERCY that brought me here! Mercy! Amen! What a good word! It was Mercy! Oh, thank you Jesus. It was mercy.”
Suddenly, she went into worship mode…seeing Mercy will do that to you. There she was with tears coming down her face, hands lifted up, praising God for His mercy.
Now I was the one with tears sliding down my cheeks. I wanted to take my shoes off, because THIS was holy ground.
Mercy is beautiful, friends.
She got it. She understood that the perhaps the most merciful thing God could do for her would be to bring her to the end of herself and to a place where she had to look at Him and no one else. Years of toxic relationships and emotional let-downs made His unconditional love stand out like a beacon of hope in a desperate world.
When is the last time you got a good look at mercy? To sit in awe of what God has rescued you from?
In prison last month, I saw Mercy reach down and rescue a woman who thought she was worthless. I saw Him hold her face in His hands and whisper the truth to her trembling heart: that He couldn’t stand living without her, so He died on a cross two thousand years ago so that He could redeem her. So they could forever be together. She was in awe of that kind of love…and she could hardly fathom she was worth that much to Him.
So are you.
It’s called Mercy.
“I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust ate, the young locust, the destroying locust—my great army that I sent against you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied. You will praise the name of Yahweh your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. My people will never again be put to shame. You will know that I am present in Israel and that I am Yahweh your God, and there is no other. My people will never again be put to shame.” Joel 2:25-27 HCSB