Do you remember playing the game of mercy in grade school? One kid would interlock his or her fingers with mine, palms facing, and then the game would begin. My so-called friend would push against my fingers bending them backward until I screamed, “MERCY!” Even though I knew the outcome of the game, I continued to play it. I knew there would be pain involved, yet I still agreed to partake. Why would I do this to myself?
Is this any different from repeating the same patterns in my adult life? Not really. After years of alcoholism embedding itself in my life in one way or another, I continued to repeat the same mistakes while expecting different results. One alcoholic in my life would binge drink and I became despondent and depressed, thinking if I were sad enough, he would stop. As a rebellious teenager, my alcoholic dad would drink and I would act out, hoping he would see how his drinking affected me and would have to stop. Later, I knew my husband, Patrick, was an alcoholic, so I thought if I could somehow control how much he drank, I was doing good.
The entire time the alcoholics in my life continued to drink, I continued to repeat the same patterns with each of them, hoping the “next time” would work. Eventually, I discovered nothing helped, so I became depressed and turned further and further away from how God wanted me to be. This pendulum swinging back and forth between co-dependency and depression eventually consumed me. I turned completely away from the ways of the Lord and wound up in misery.
Deep down, I knew something was wrong with my soul, but I continued to ignore it. Shopping became my addiction. I spent too much money on things I didn’t need. Those “things” filled me up for a minute, but once I brought them home and put them away, the blissful feeling went away, too. I didn’t seek the Lord in my time of trouble. I didn’t pray for his guidance and wisdom. I didn’t ask him for his grace and mercy. Like the childhood game, I repeatedly interlocked my fingers with my shame while allowing Satan to bend them back but didn’t scream for mercy.
God knew I needed mercy, though. He watched me make the same mistakes and turn from his ways. He waited patiently until I finally did call out to him. Once I did, He lovingly accepted my request and offered his gracious mercy.
Much like Paul wrote to Titus in the Pastoral Epistle,
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…”
I had always viewed myself as a good person, but until I read this verse, I knew I had not been a righteous person. To be righteous means to be morally right and without blame. Being good and being righteous are two different things. Paul explains to Titus, though, we are saved according to God’s mercy. God desires to be with his creation for eternity, so He made a way for us. Through his lovi