Waking up far too early for comfort one morning this week, I sensed God’s call to come meet with him. I know this call, and I realized how thirsty I was for Him. I put on my Dwell app and began listening to the word. (If you’ve never heard of Dwell, it is a gift for the ears.) As I moved my heart toward Jesus, images began to come to my mind. Images of peace, stillness, letting go, etc. And then…a small ouch. A wrestling with conviction and regret over an emotional hurt that I had inflicted upon one of my children earlier in the week. Shame began stirring. The tears welled up.
As I continued to listen however, another image presented and began to become clear. The concept was mercy. But not mercy as I’d always thought about it. It was mercy in a way entirely new to me. I’d always understood mercy to convey the idea of being delivered from moral consequences, a sentence or deserved penalty being commuted.
But this image of mercy was outside the box I’d previously had it in. I simply experienced a picture of salve or ointment. The type of thing one might apply to a wound to like Neosporin. But deeply suffused with soothing and love. As if the ointment was peace, forgiveness, and joy all-in-one. It was a picture of healing redress.
As I began experiencing the image, I had a clear and distinct question and following thoughts come to my mind that had the distinct quality of God’s tender presence that I have come to know and love. The question was, “Why would God ask me to be so generous toward the weaknesses of others and lavish mercy on their shortcomings, and yet show none of His generous Spirit toward myself?” “Mercy is mercy. It is His salve for shame. I can apply it to my own heart. We all can.”
This was profound. It dawned on me that I had never equated mercy with self-compassion. I had always understood the compassion that Jesus has for humanity to be grace, to be something we received that we did not deserve. Grace was the extra, the over and above, the reception of the full goodness of eternity.
But here it was. Not mercy as a withholding of something toward me, but mercy as an understanding. It was more than the understanding that I did not need to administer the punishing thoughts toward myself that all too often follow the wrongs I bring about in the world. This was Mercy as self-compassion. I mentally took the salve, and I imagined applying it to my heart. Within a just a few moments, this new understanding brought about the sensation of warm peace mixed with joy. The feeling began to expand in my chest and eventually filled me to the brim.
As I continued to reflect, I also realized that it wasn’t God who applied the salve to my heart, rather, it was me. And it was supposed to be me. He’d asked me to do it because He gently reminded me that He expects me to take my own thoughts captive and replace the ones that do me harm with the ones that don’t. And He does not do that for me because, He encouraged me to remember that I am free, and in allowing me the privilege of freely loving Him with my mind, He expects me to do some heavy lifting.
In this, I am reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the Church in Philippians 2:12 to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, or, as the Amplified Version puts it, to actively pursue spiritual maturity. This active pursuit must take place in the only faculty that it can, in the very rudder of my soul. My mind.
As I see it, being transformed by the renewal of our mind requires some heavy lifting. We have to apply correct thinking daily. This is wisdom. Since wisdom is knowledge that is well-applied, I see now that He wants me to apply the idea that expecting myself to stop sinning in certain ways by shaming those things does not bring about a vibrant change in my life. Rather, it simply continues a vicious cycle of blame and shame that beats against the confidence I have in my worth to God and in Christ’s love for me. The enemy always pits false ideas up against the knowledge of the truth that God has given us. That is why Paul says it’s imperative that we demolish these arguments and presumptions that are set up against the knowledge of God, and why we have to examine our noetic activity in order to ensure our thoughts conform to the truth and motivate us to be obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5)
Thinking correctly about who I am in Jesus is not something accomplished in two or three minutes a day. It is something that requires intention and consistent practice. Sow to the flesh, reap from the flesh. Sow to the spirit, reap from the spirit. This is fact. As I seek to be transformed through the renewal of my mind, I am reminded that this is an intentional practice that I control, and since my thinking is constant, so should my practice be. This is a way of loving God with all my mind.
God helped me correct my thinking that morning as He showed me a tiny drop of what it means for Him to mentally replace what I deserve with what He does. I am still experiencing the peace His salve of mercy supplies, and I am grateful.
Hoping your week is bright and filled the joy that truth can instill!