Mercy

Just now I came across some very unexpected free time and I said to myself (aloud, mind you,) “What if I wrote a blog entry right now?” So I’m doing that incredibly dangerous thing: beginning to write with no end of either kind in mind.

These couple weeks have been very busy. I’m playing in the pit for the musical, which has devoured my evenings, I’m beginning tutoring on Thursday, and lots of medium-sized assignments have begun to crop up out of nowhere. Also I’ve been having a fair number of meal dates. (Alice is popular—Hooray!)

All of these things have done a fair job of keeping my mind off of something I’ve been avoiding thinking about: mercy. You see, I always thought the principal thing about mercy was to give it. But I’m slowly beginning to realize that I’m not usually on that side of the transaction. I sin against God and sin against others, but since I’m no paragon of virtue, I find that people very rarely sin against me. So in my dealings with mercy it is usually being offered to me by kind, wounded hands.

I’ll tell you: I don’t like taking it. It’s not that I mind admitting I was wrong, but often, I cannot bear to be set right. I don’t like taking “the bleeding charity.” I would rather wallow in my sin and say, “No, but I belong here—you will not raise me up.”

That realization has been nagging at me for a few days now, asking me to deal with it, and today in Fantasy we talked about Return of the King. I re-read one of my favorite passages, the passage that first made me cry. But this time, to my great discomfort, I read it differently.

“Wormtongue!” called Frodo. “You need not follow him. I know of no evil you have done to me. You can have rest and food here for a while, until you are stronger and can go your own ways.”

Wormtongue halted and looked back at him, half prepared to stay. Saruman turned. “No evil?” he cackled. “Oh no! Even when he sneaks out at night it is only to look at the stars. But did I hear someone ask where poor Lotho is hiding? You know, don’t you, Worm? Will you tell them?”

Wormtongue cowered down and whimpered: “No, no!”

“Then I will,” said Saruman. “Worm killed your Chief, poor little fellow, your nice little Boss. Didn’t you, Worm? Stabbed him in his sleep, I believe. Buried him, I hope; though Worm has been very hungry lately. No, Worm is not really nice. You had better leave him to me.”

A look of wild hatred came into Wormtongue’s red eyes. “You told me to; you made me do it,” he hissed.

Saruman laughed. “You do what Sharkey says, always, don’t you, Worm? Well, now he says: follow!” He kicked Wormtongue in the face as he grovelled, and turned and made off. But at that something snapped: suddenly Wormtongue rose up, drawing a hidden knife, and then with a snarl like a dog he sprang on Saruman’s back, jerked his head back, cut his throat, and with a yell ran off down the lane. Before Frodo could recover or speak a word, three hobbit-bows twanged and Wormtongue fell dead.

Do you see me? Do you see me in the character I’ve always pitied, and, therefore, from whom I’ve felt comfortably separate? Do you see me in the refusal of the outstretched hand, the whimpering return to agony and rottenness? Do you see that it does not end well?

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why I would rather label myself with my sin than with God’s grace. I don’t understand why I do not want what is good. I don’t understand why I would rather be endlessly chastised than forgiven. I don’t understand why I’d rather look at my feet than at His glory.

I behave as if Christ on the cross meant nothing, as if “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” did not absolve me also, as if no one’s ever told me He loves me.

I feel a bit like the one hundredth sheep, who has caught herself deep in the briars. Come find me, Lord. I’m crying mercy, or beginning to, at the very least.

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