“Mercy is love's second name.”
St. Pope John Paul II
Last New Year’s Day, my wife was inspired by the women’s ministry Walking with Purpose to have everyone in our family randomly, but prayerfully, choose a word from a rapidly scrolling digital list. Each word corresponded to a scripture passage. After we read aloud the corresponding passage, we all sat around and made a creative illustration of the word that we could keep as a reminder throughout the year. It had such staying power that the kids were impatient to see what word the Lord would have for them this year.
I received “mercy.” I felt like it was a good one for me, but I wasn’t exactly sure why. It didn’t take even a week of 2023 to be enlightened. I had been highly critical of someone (shocker) – complaining regularly to my wife and even to my oldest daughter. As my judgment spilled over into a conversation with a friend, my friend shared with me a difficult cross that person was carrying about which I had no idea. My stomach sank and suddenly my need to understand “mercy” this year became a lot clearer.
As an extrovert who shares his stories widely and weekly, I reflected on how easily I forget that, just because someone isn’t sharing their story with me, that doesn’t mean they don’t have one. In my life and leadership, I may not be able to know the stories of all those whom I encounter, but how frequently do I encounter people with the recognition that they have a story, that they might be carrying a cross, and it might even be a cross very close to mine? In Latin, the word is “misericordia,” which literally means "miserable heart." Does my heart hurt for the hurts of others? Before I make a judgment, before I respond to the possible symptoms of someone’s hurt, can I wonder and even ask what’s at the heart of the matter?
Perhaps my 2023 word is a reminder from the Lord that I don’t need to know someone’s story to show them mercy, I only need to remember His story, how He hurt for us. As we continue into our new year, may we develop “miserable hearts” in the holiest way possible.
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