Justice and mercy

This weekend I was asked a (TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE) personal question.  I had the opportunity to either: a) respond with a pat "Oh I'm fine"; or b) Be honest.  I don't want to get into the specifics, but the truthful answer to the question was probably not what the person asking was looking for … they were just making small talk.  The truthful answer holds someone accountable for something they did that hurt me in the process.  It is something I – to my shame – have struggled with a lot over the past few years.

And so, in an attempt to keep marching down the road of spiritual health, I answered honestly.  I made it clear that I had been hurt by the actions of others (some of whom were in the room).

The consequences of doing this weren't dire.  No one stood up and stomped out of the room.  No one called me later that afternoon to let me have a piece of their mind.  I'm sure a few eyebrows were raised but other than that … I was allowed to vent.  It felt good in the moment.  I left feeling rather vindicated.

Later on, my mind did its unraveling: I have asked myself if it was really worth it.  What I had to say put my husband in an uncomfortable position.  It probably made me look like nothing short of a bitch.  I called myself a whiner and a blabbermouth.  I chastised myself for dumping my issues on an innocent bystander (the person asking the question was not directly involved in hurting me but runs with the crowd that did).  What will come out of my little tirade?  Will the fact that I've been hurt change?  No.  Will the people who messed up apologize and attempt to mend fences?  Probably not. This issue is now years old and the statute of limitations on "fixing it" has passed.  I'm the only one holding on to what happened.  Everyone else has moved on, and except for an uncomfortable encounter with us maybe once a year, they never have to think about it.

What's funny is that I have no problem calling someone out on the carpet if they've done something to hurt someone else, no matter how small.  When I take a personality test the easiest questions for me to answer are the ones that are a choice between justice and mercy … justice wins every time.  And I don't care for any old kind of justice; I like my justice swift, quick, and brutal.  When situations arise like this and this, I get so angry and sad it makes me cry.  And when justice is done?  I feel like I'm on top of the world, even though the justice is not my own.  Is it any surprise that this is one of my favorite ministry organizations?

And yet if someone hurts me?  I internalize it and wonder if I'm making too big a deal.  I sweep it under the rug and busy myself tending to the needs of others.  I only allow myself to be sad and upset about it when locked in to some deep corner of the house, alone (or I just take it out on poor John).

When I was a kid I wanted to be a cop, no lie.  I think if I had ended up in that profession I would be frustrated all the time.  Bad guys get away.  Terrible things are done to people and sometimes?  No one has to answer for it.  Sometimes people don't have to face what they've done in a real way.  This is what makes me the angriest about my father's death sometimes; When he died he hadn't seen me or my sister or my mother in four years.  He'd done terrible things to us, never apologized, and then?  He got out of ever having to deal with any of us face-to-face because he died.  How stupid is that?  Don't you think my father would rather have lived and dealt with the consequences?  And yet?  I put his death in the category of "getting out of having to face the music." What the HELL.

I'm a Christian.  Every day I accept God's mercy in my life.  If I
trust God's mercy, I am also supposed to trust in His ability to
administer justice.  This doesn't mean I shouldn't intervene when I see
harm coming to someone (check out Isaiah 1), but if I can't be the
punisher or the agent of retribution … I have to let it go.  THIS IS
REALLY HARD FOR ME.  By the same token, it has to be all right for me
to be honest.  I have to realize that it's doing other people a
disservice if I let them walk all over me and I never say anything.

There is a balance to be found somewhere in all of this.  I'm seeking it. 


All day yesterday and last night I could not get little Emily out of my head.  The death of an innocent child like that makes me feel like I've dodged some sort of cosmic bullet.  I have no idea what the future holds.  I just know that today?  I have a healthy baby girl.  I have a husband who loves me.  And in the face of that?  Righting all wrongs seems like a waste of my time.  I want my family to know me as someone who spent her time on love, who treated people – even those who don't necessarily deserve it – with mercy.  Because that's what I'm experiencing today: Mercy.  The gift of another day. 


It's probably a good thing I wasn't a sheriff in the old west, huh?


3 thoughts on “Justice and mercy

  1. Rachel says:

    I have no idea what happened in your situation, but even if others are over it, sometimes it takes getting your feelings out to be able to forgive and forget. I hope that it works out for you.

    Emily was a cutie. I can’t imagine what her parents are feeling right now.

  2. Morgan S. says:

    Your post provided much food for thought. I completely understand your anger at your Dad passing away without having to face the music, per se. I myself am angry with people in my life whom I feel are being “weak” but I also know I SHOULDN’T be angry with them – I should help them! Emotions….they are hard to control, especially if you keep certain strong ones hidden away since you know they are not really “acceptable” or “nice”.

    And my heart is so heavy right now for The Mandells. Sigh. I am hugging my little ones tightly for sure.

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