I stand in the darkness doing the mosquito slap-dance while the cicadas press in around me and the moon plays peek-a-boo with the clouds. I breathe deeply of the mesquite and spilled diesel fuel and try to refocus my impatience at the situation. At the end of a long day of teaching, we had driven 90 miles to pick up the school’s bus from a shop and buy copier paper. Pedro turned left out of the parking lot, and Sarah, our daughter, and I had turned right.
I like driving at night—sailing along in the inky blackness with sporadic conversation and time to decompress—so I didn’t worry too much that we’d been separated. An hour down the road, I pulled into the left lane to pass a vehicle with the emergency lights flashing. Not thirty seconds later my phone rang and my husband’s name popped up on the screen. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw that the disabled vehicle had a row of lights across the high front. I pushed the ‘accept’ button on the phone and our words washed over each other.
“Is that you pulled over?”
“Where are you?”
“I just passed you.”
“I had a blow out.”
“I’m pulling over and I’ll back up to you.”
I backed up half a mile on the freeway shoulder and parked in front of the bus. The blown out tired had ripped a fuel line, and diesel shone wetly in the headlights of passing trucks.
Sarah and I waited off to the side of the road (it seemed safer than staying in our vehicle) and slapped mosquitos and waited for Pedro to call a tow truck and arrange the safety triangles and lock up the bus.
In the past, BC (before cancer—Pedro’s. not mine), I probably would have gotten angry that things weren’t going my way. Sure, I was a Bible-carrying, baptized, born-again Christian, but I didn’t really understand mercy. It took the trauma of living on the edge of life and death for four months for me to realize that I needed to change.
It took years (more than I’d like to admit) living as a stressed-out recovering caregiver for me to understand that mercy means daily seeking to come alongside those in pain—and believe me, if you look around you, just about every person lives in some kind of pain.
Mercy isn’t a one-time gift from God, it’s a path he guides us down as we grow closer and closer to him. It’s a still, small voice that whispers in my ear when a difficult student acts defiantly, “Come alongside. Let them know you care about their pain. Don’t react.” (I’ve struggled with a temper my entire life)#Mercy prays more and talks less in every situation. Click To Tweet
It’s not afraid of the dark, the cicadas or mosquitos. It manifests itself in grace notes—I turned right, Pedro turned left, and God arranged that we should be in the right place at the right time so that I could help him.
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)