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The Motivation of Mercy

Hope you understand what I’m going through
Hope you understand when I call out for you
To vent

I remember nearly everything about the sermon.

It was preached on August 14, 2011 at the 11 o’clock service at my church. It was about the Last Supper, which was notable because you don’t often hear a sermon on that and it not be close to Easter. It was a beautiful sermon. One that impacted me. One that I was really excited to tell other people about afterwards.

I remember it, though, because I remember thinking to myself that my pastor seemed to be particularly emotionally motivated by it, and noticeably drained by it.

He delivered another sermon at that evening service. This was interesting because normally an assistant would preach at evening services. Afterwards, my pastor advised kids 6th grade and under to leave, as the congregation had some “family business” to attend to.

You see, just two days earlier, the assistant who was supposed to have preached that night left a note on his desk. It said that he had “fallen in love” with a woman in the church, and they had decided to leave to be together.

They had responsibilities. They had spouses. They had families. They had children. They left all of that.

Disappeared. Gone. Abandoned it.

Abandoned everyone else.

Sent my mind on a journey to the outermost
To document what it had seen & CC me the notes
And ask Kurt Cobain “Why?” Cause I need to know
He stopped when he had such a way long to go

I struggled with rectifying this situation in my mind. I didn’t really know him at all, and I had never met his family or the family of the woman he left with. But it hurt me that they would do this.

And bigger than that, I couldn’t help but think about his three children that he had left. They were all under the age of 9.

I couldn’t feel anything but hatred for him.

What kind of husband cheats on his wife? What kind of mother leaves her children? What kind of pastor abandons his congregation?

They were both well respected in the church. They both had many jobs there. They both oversaw a great deal, and were looked up to by members of the congregation. And they thought it was worth it to dump all of that.

I was angry. I wanted to know how anyone could do something so stupid.

I wanted to attack them. I wanted their lives to be ruined.

How can the devil take my brother if he’s close to me?
When he was everything I wasn’t but I hoped to be?

A few weeks ago, a music minister at a church in my hometown stepped down.

It became known that years previous, when he was in another state, he had “sexual indiscretions” with younger males at the church he worked for. He had gone through counseling, stepped down from that church, and moved far away from that Texas town, trying to leave his mistakes behind. He and his wife settled in Mississippi, and raised their kids here.

He worked for over 20 years in my hometown, both at this church and at the high school, teaching choir. The school board knew of the incident, but he safely worked for two decades.

A woman who was a youth in that Texas church right after he left recently discovered his name associated with the school. She heads the Houston chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She didn’t like that he was still around youth.

She wanted to attack him. She wanted his life to be ruined.

So after 20 years without any evidence of wrongdoing, she brings his past back into the public eye. He had to leave the high school, where he was required to have a school administrator present at all times. He stepped down from the church. Now others have come out claiming he did things to them. There’s no telling whether any of that is true, or if they’re just trying to cash in on it. Regardless, his reputation has been ruined.

She got her wish. And I was disgusted.

What was different? This was an example of somebody being justly treated for sins they had committed. I should’ve enjoyed the fact that they couldn’t escape justice….right?

But it was different. Because he was a friend of my family. Because he had been a mentor to my younger brother when my brother needed an authority who actually cared. He never once did anything inappropriate. He never did anything wrong.

He just cared. And I knew that, because I knew him.

So what makes this other situation any different? Just because I didn’t really know this assistant pastor who left his family, I feel hatred. I’m not motivated to show mercy.

And it’s really just because I have stayed distant enough to still feel like they don’t deserve the same mercy I’ve been shown.

I get a little honest and I ask myself
When the time comes, will You save me if I ask for help?

Both situations terrify me.

I’ve lost sleep over the realization that all of the people involved were good people. Much better people than I. Pastors. Music Ministers. Crusaders for those who were mistreated. All have done things to hurt many, many people around them.

Who am I? I’m a lowly 20-something who works at a desk and writes for fun. I spend my free time watching sports and playing video games.

If these people who are actually worth respecting can do such harm to each other, then how much damage am I capable of?

How am I going to be able to stay faithful to my future wife? How am I going to resist the darker temptations of my heart?

Am I going to make one mistake that will haunt me for two decades?

And if I come across someone who has severely hurt others, will I be able to show them mercy, the way I’ve been shown mercy?

I am a sinner. Like my assistant pastor who left his family and abandoned his church family. Like the music minister who years ago gave in to temptation and made a mistake that still haunts him. Like the woman who, in her search for justice, has forgotten mercy.

I just hope that maybe, in any sort of slight way, I’ll remember that there is no motivation for mercy, other than to be merciful.

I know you’ve been down so long
So I’ll be stronger for you
I know you’ve been down so long
Cause I’ve been down too
Yes I understand what you’re going through
Yes I understand cause I am going through it too
I pray that you find your way and all things old become new
I pray that you find your way
For my sake cause I’m lost too
Yes I understand what you are going through
Yes I understand cause I am going through it too

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About The Joseph Craven

I'm tall, but not so tall that people point and stare.

10 responses to “The Motivation of Mercy”

  1. Zack Owens says :

    Thanks so much for this. These are the kinds of questions we should be asking.

  2. mysie says :

    it’s so honest and thought provoking. thank you for having the courage to put into words what all of us have felt.

  3. Mandie Marie says :

    Your “people worth respecting” statement bothered me. It suggests you think you aren’t worth respecting, but after reading this, I have a huge amount of respect for you. You’re asking tough questions. You’re standing up to the things that terrify you. You’re asking God to show you how to be merciful like he is. That’s big. That’s respectable.

    Thanks for making me think today.

  4. Knox McCoy says :

    BOOM. This was awesome. Thought-provoking, honest, asking some hard questions.

    But don’t beat yourself up needlessly. We all exist in our own contexts and we’re accountable for how we behave within those contexts. Just because they failed doesn’t mean that you are destined for it because you aren’t in the ministry.

    But seriously: So good.

  5. Riggs says :

    thanks for writing this. i’ve made mistakes in my past that seem to haunt me, too. so i appreciate grace and mercy big time! thank you.

  6. The Joseph Craven says :

    Thanks for reading this, guys. I’m going to submit that this is the best essay on mercy to ever quote the rapper Big K.R.I.T. the entire time.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

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