The end of fall semester: grading piles up, student evaluations loom, tempers are shorter and time is quicker and Christmas is hurtling around the bend. But His mercies are new every morning.
Here are a few of mine, from the past week.
Crossing the chilly parking lot, admiring the pale tints of pink and blue filling the sky, I was caught by the sudden lonely homesick tug of the bare tree branches scrawled and scrolled and gently curled against the morning. They took me by surprise, as beauty does, and I could have stood there daylong merely puzzling that peace: riddling from the curvaceous darkness the meaning of its silhouette, still in the golden dawn.
The young yard-worker, waiting by his truck in an empty lot, with all the glory of the sky lit up behind him: this mere wage-earner (mere?) made suddenly epic, in all the heroism of his humanity, walking in fields of fire.
The split-second as the bus stop flashed by and I saw, in the crisp morning, an old lady in mid-conversation with future passengers: her hands in the air; her story connecting her, for an instant, with these momentary conspirators in the long thread of her life.
And, at the stoplight, the workman: middle-aged, wrinkles in his face and worry around his eyes, his little work crane levering him into the oddity of middle air—hovering between earth and heaven.
Deep blue darkness, just lightening toward dawn, stars still clear in the cold December sky. A figure scurries across the parking lot, in sandals and a thin dress, and prances in a little circle just on the edge of the football field—
for there is frost on the grass, and winter is finally come.
O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.
Kneeling here, at the beginning of this day and this week, I realize how easy it is to think of mercy as the cancelling of a debt, the covering of wickedness: the aversion of holy eyes or the removal of some unsightly sin. Yet we no sooner pray this prayer than we find that mercy means, not only remission, but redemption. Mercy is an active thing, a thing which enters us and transforms us, a thing which takes what we are and makes of us what we ought to be. Like the blind men crying to Christ, Son of David, have mercy on us, we pray not merely for the covering of a well-known defect, but for a wholeness we cannot even imagine.
(The blind men prayed, not for eye patches, but eyes: and their prayers were answered.)
We pray for mercy, and find suddenly—the Son of God, made bread and wine for us, changing us from within, giving us life and love and sight.
We pray for mercy, and find–that God has given us another morning.