A while ago my husband was travelling and called home to say goodnight to the kids. One of our sons finished his conversation with his dad and handed the phone to his brother Zeke, who was finishing up in the bathroom before going to bed.
Noticing Zeke’s dilemma of needing both hands while working with water, I stepped in and held the phone for him so that he could continue getting ready for bed. My action, which was meant to help, was interpreted as me not trusting him with the phone. In a split second, his anger flashed and he stormed to his bedroom with two slammed doors shuddering in his wake.
This was not the first such explosion on this day. In fact, it was one of those days that no matter how hard I tried to do everything ‘right’, I kept getting things wrong. I was frustrated, and tired of walking on eggshells all day. Gone was my grace. Gone was the forced tone of warmth in my voice. Gone was the last shred of my frayed patience.
Already rushing to my mind, as I finished the phone call with my husband, were the pent-up words of a pulpit-pounding preacher that I had been holding back like a starved lion all day. I was about to swing open the gate and set the word beast free on my precious, oh-so-deserving son.
When I entered Zeke’s room, I found him with the covers pulled over his head. I spoke his name harshly in a ‘you-better-turn-and-face-me’ kind of voice. He knew he had been pushing my buttons all day, and as he lowered the blankets he must have sensed the coming storm. But as he stared at the end of my accusing finger, (yes, the very same finger that I was taught by Dr. Purvis to point up, but never at my child), and as he observed the scowl on my face… something in his eyes flickered.
In that moment I saw a reflection of myself in him. Something in his eyes that I can’t even completely identify stopped me cold in my tracks. Was it fear…shame…guilt…insecurity? His eyes were displaying what I feel all too often. I was adopted into God’s family as an ‘older child’ too, coming to faith as an adult. And although I know all the ‘right’ answers about who I am in Christ, it’s downright hard, if not impossible, to throw off the baggage that I brought into the relationship with my heavenly Father.
I had to stop and catch my breath as my mind caught up to my soul over what had just happened in that split second. Gone in an instant was my anger. Gone was the word beast. Humility came rushing in and with it a broken spirit…and compassion. In that moment, I didn’t just decide to show Zeke mercy; I delighted to show him mercy.
The prophet Micah reminds us of this important truth about God: “You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us…” (Micah 7:18-19). I used to think that the Lord showed mercy on me just because His love is so great. Though true, there is much more to it. He delights to show me mercy, because when He looks at me, He doesn’t see his adopted, earthly child who looks nothing like Him; He sees a reflection of Himself. With the backdrop of Jesus, He sees me as righteous! “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…” (Romans 8:29).
As I then knelt beside Zeke’s bed, I asked his forgiveness and spoke words of comfort and reassurance to him. My son is quick to get angry, but even quicker to forgive. Just one more way that he is like me, but better!
Yes, we are but broken jars of clay. God is gathering together all the scattered pieces from our lives, and He is masterfully putting together a mosaic that He calls family. And the eyes shine back to their Creator, “Father, this…THIS…is mercy – that when You look at us, You see Yourself!”