Awhile back, Lee had a mom in clinic who needed a fellow mom more than a pediatrician. He gave her my phone number so she could call, and when he got home that afternoon, he gave me the mom’s phone number and suggested I call her first.
Well. I knew I should call, but calling a stranger to arrange a social call is just about the scariest thing for me in daily life. I procrastinated. Had other things to do first. I also felt conviction about it: I knew I was loving myself more than this other woman who needed a friend.
A few days passed, and I was surprised with a phone call from her. You know how the Bible says that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance? That’s exactly how I felt. I knew I had experienced God’s mercy, and I repented of my selfishness. That mom and I became friends.
Now I’m asking myself, what was the impetus for God’s mercy: the sin or the weakness?
As mothers, we instinctively recognize how weakness in our children influences how we parent. If a child has missed his nap, we might leave a party early before he has a meltdown. That’s mercy. Sometimes we can’t leave early, and we deal with the meltdown; yet our attitude leans toward not tempting our children beyond their ability to bear it.
When it’s time to leave the playground, sometimes it’s merciful to give children a five-minute warning. Some moms might give them a one-minute warning, too. When time is up, and that little boy is crying because he wants one more time on the slide, his mama might gently take his hand and lead him home (crying the whole way). Or she might carry him!
A college student told me her testimony once, and described how God intervened to help her break up with her abusive boyfriend. She thoughtfully told me, “I was too weak to get out of the relationship, and I’m thankful God intervened so I could.” She was describing mercy.
It was with great interest, then, that I noticed a passage in Genesis recently, where this idea seems to appear.
God was merciful to Lot by providing a way to escape, yes, but Lot still lingered in response to God’s mercy.
When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.” 16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. Genesis 19:15-16
Here God’s mercy shows up at a moment of weakness. Lot isn’t repenting; he’s hesitating. In the middle of his lingering, God grabs his hand and helps him to obey.
Be merciful like your father in heaven is merciful.