Take The Humble Path (Thursday)
Today's devotional comes from "Falling Into Goodness," a book of Lenten reflections by Chuck DeGroat. You can purchase the entire book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Matthew 5:7
“I’m blessed with the gift of mercy,” she said to me, with a twinkle of eagerness in her eye. You got the sense that she was ready to jump into any ministry I asked her to do. And there were needs at the church…plenty of them. I needed her. But, I told her no.
Why would I do that? I knew her too well to draw her in to something that could further intensify a wound in her. You see, she had learned a long time ago to give as a way of getting. She grew up an only child in a family of high achieving parents, and she got their attention by being the child-without-needs, the child always ready to come through for Mom and Dad. Her room was spotless. Her grades were high. And she never whined or complained. As her pastor, I could not ask her to serve without having a long and hard conversation about her life and my vision for her growth.
The quality of mercy Jesus imagines here is different than eager giving. The merciful person – because she’s a broken, lamenting, humbled, and longing soul – is close to the ground. She’s fallen into goodness herself. And from that place, she gives freely, with no strings attached.
In pastoral ministry, I’ve meet many eager givers. I’ve seen them come through the seminary as well. And we often bless their supposed gifts. But too many today help from a place of woundedness. And this form of helping often leads to resentment and emptiness.
When I think about how and why I give, it’s complicated. I give to bless. But I also give to be thanked. I give to be noticed. I give to feel special. I give to satisfy an appetite for usefulness. I give to stay busy. I give to get benefits. I give from a whole host of troubling and complicated motives.
The question for each of us is this: Are we on the beatitude journey of Jesus? If we are, we’re doing the deep archaeological dig in our souls necessary for authentically merciful giving. And when we are close to the ground of our own being, close to that humus-soil of meekness, we are prone to meet others right where they are, as wounded-healers to weary and broken souls.
We all long to be rescuers, at some level. We long to be heroic. But sometimes our rescuing masks our own core needs for love and security. Jesus makes a far better Rescuer than you and me. As we’re humbled and as our sense of self-importance slowly dissipates, we might actually find ourselves eager to participate as mercy-givers, not because we’re fishing for satisfaction but because we’re longing to see the world made right.
Rescuing Savior, I realize now that you are a far better “rescuer” than I am. In fact, in rescuing another I may not recognize that it is I who most desperately need rescuing. Continue to do the work of humbling me for participation in your kingdom life. I really do long to be a mercy-giver. Amen