By JULIE YARBROUGH
Grief Expert, Beyond the Broken Heart
I sat at a lunch counter Tuesday trying to digest a tuna sandwich while watching a report of the incomprehensible damage, destruction, and loss of precious life in Moore, Oklahoma. As we all know, it's impossible to comprehend or assimilate -- visually and emotionally -- a disaster of such personal and regional magnitude. And even as information slowly solidified into real facts, there emerged a steady, gentle flow of stories about people, the so-called "human interest" stories that reveal who we are by how we act toward others.
Tears filled my eyes as I watched a woman with deep lacerations on her arms fearlessly pick through the rubble that was once her home. She was on a mission: she must find her little dog. She was certain the dog was there somewhere and was determined to find it, despite her own need for care and treatment. She called and listened and, sure enough, she heard a sound and knew the dog was alive. With great energy, she struggled to clear away a large piece of debris. She tugged and pulled and finally made a hole large enough for the dog to wriggle through. The feisty Schnauzer, only a little worse for the trauma, jumped into her waiting, adoring arms.
Not unlike other events in life, this natural disaster is, in part, the story of tender mercy -- a woman and a beloved dog, teachers protecting children by laying down their own lives, neighbors helping neighbors -- solidarity and human outreach, the love of kindness and patience deeper than every circumstance.
Love, mercy, and grace -- the very best of God, especially when we grieve, "Do not, O LORD, withhold your mercy from me; let your steadfast love and your faithfulness keep me safe forever" (Psalm 40:11 NRSV). Mercy stands a little apart because it acknowledges our fundamental need for forgiveness as flawed human beings, "To the LORD our God belong mercy and forgiveness…" (Daniel 9:9 NRSV). And when we receive mercy -- from God and from others -- we experience the grace of love, compassion, and forgiveness, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36 NRSV).
- God's mercy is a gift of divine goodness, "The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works" (Psalm 145:9 KJV).
- God's mercy is part of God's loving, giving nature, "But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…" (Nehemiah 9:17 NRSV).
- God's mercy is infinite, "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him.'" (Lamentations 3:22-24 NRSV).
- God's mercy is the comfort that surrounds us when all seems lost because of the death of one we love, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" (Psalm 23:6 RSV).
- God's mercy is the energy of hope, "hope in the LORD; For with the LORD there is mercy…" (Psalm 130:7 KJV).
As we grieve our hope is in the faithfulness of God's tender mercy, "Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16 NRSV).
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78-79 NRSV
Keep me this day, O God, in the assurance of your mercy. Amen.