(Disclaimer: this took much longer than five minutes to write)
Mercy. Love. Kindness. Compassion. Grace.
All of these are part of God’s character. His very being is love. From His love comes mercy. When He looks at me, He sees all of the things that are the opposite of His character, but instead of turning away, He offers me mercy. Rather than anger and retaliation, God extends His compassion and love. He reaches out and touches my heart, my mind, my soul, and heals them. Instead of turmoil and fear, I am given peace and comfort.
Mercy from God is love in action. Oh, how thankful I am to receive His mercy. Without it, I would live in a state of depression, fear, turmoil, and isolation. Instead, I am given peace and comfort.
How do I thank God for these wonderful gifts? I give them to others. Every day I interact with people who do not live up to my expectations. People I love and people I interact with at work and at church disappoint me, hurt my feelings, and irritate me.
By nature, however, I am not a merciful person. My attitude is, “straighten up and fly right.” Pull yourself together, stop whining, and get a life!
God, in His infinite wisdom and with great patience, has been working to change me. It has been a long, slow process. For many years, I ignored all His attempts to soften my heart and show mercy, love, compassion, and kindness to others.
He gave me a daughter who was so different from me that all I could do was surrender. For many years, I tried to make her who I wanted her to be: neat, organized, efficient, quiet, obedient. I didn’t manage to accomplish any of that.
But no matter what, I loved her. Unconditionally. Even though I didn’t always act like it.
When she was nine, she was diagnosed as a juvenile diabetic. Someone who needed constant care—special food, shots, monitoring. She fought tooth and nail about living in the confines of her disease.
Actually, she fought tooth and nail about everything: what to wear, keeping her room in an order where we could at least open the door, doing homework, doing chores, and on and on and on.
I gritted my teeth and stood determined to make her compliant. I was not successful
When she was twenty-two, and already married, her years of neglecting her own care took a huge toll. No doctor could figure out what to do because no doctor could figure out what was wrong. In desperation, her primary-care physician sent her to UCLA. No doctor—and she had a string of specialists so long I had to keep a list of what type of medicine they practiced and what they said could decide what was wrong or how to fix it. Finally, they sent a surgeon to take a biopsy. He realized a biopsy wasn’t going to be enough. An entire muscle was removed from her leg. Two more surgeries followed in quick succession to continue to remove dead muscle and tissue.
Her husband couldn’t be there. He had only worked for his company for eighteen months, not long enough to have much vacation time or sick leave. But I had the time. I left my classroom in the care of substitutes and I spent every week day from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. in that room with Kimberly. I fetched and carried water, blankets, Jell-O, and whatever else she needed. I held her hand when her bandage was changed. I read to her. I got in the shower with her and held her steady. I brought her a bed pan.
And I didn’t think anything of it. It came from my heart, this mercy, to ease her suffering.
Because she was who she was, she didn’t change her lifestyle to accommodate the disease that was eating away at her. She smoked; she ate whatever she wanted; she went barefoot.
For ten years, Kim spent one to three weeks in the hospital at least once a year. And I could always be there. God, in His mercy, allowed me time with this girl I so loved. We developed a relationship we had never had when she was growing up, years I spent constantly trying to change her into who I wanted her to be.
Four years ago today, she passed away.
I miss her more than I thought it was possible to miss someone, especially someone who was a challenge, who was so needy and different from what I would have chosen.
God used those years I spent caring for Kim to teach me how to be more merciful. I learned compassion and patience and giving everything I had to someone else.
He used her death to open my eyes to the reality that I couldn’t change who she was, and that He had made her and she was wonderful just the way she was.
That led me to look at all people differently. I appreciate their uniqueness more. I am more patient because I see them differently—not as irritations, but as people with needs. People who need kindness, compassion, and assistance.
So they see God’s character, His mercy, kindness, compassion, and love and He gets the glory.