A beauty of incomparable proportions greeted my eyes this morning. The world has become a shimmering icy landscape. The tiny red berries that grace the leafless burning bush outside my window hang heavy with the weight of their crystal covering. The ground shines with the reflection of the light from across the street.
Oh, nature is paying a great price to be arrayed with such beauty. Limbs and twigs lay scattered across the lawn. Trees once holding their hands high now bend and sag under the weight of the ice. Creaking in the wind, they beg for relief from the load they have been forced to bear. With every strong gust of wind, more small limbs become casualties of this storm. How can such beauty be the result of something so destructive? And yet, it is.
As I sit in my quiet time spot, a squirrel hops onto the porch rail and begins a slippery attempt to make it to the feeder. A smile spreads across my face. He pauses, clutching the rail while staring through the window – is he reprimanding me for taking delight in his slippery predicament? He chatters as I chuckle. Eventually, he lets go of the slippery rail and hops to the ground without the seed he was longing for.
Here, in the midst of this beauty, I meet with the Creator of all things good and beautiful. I whisper prayers of worship and of heartache, of joys and of concerns to the One who spoke the world into existence. How I want my life to reflect the beauty, even amidst the destruction, just like the world around me is glittering beauty amidst the destructive ice. I long to proclaim the goodness and mercies of my Savior in the midst of this current trial.
I must confess it is hard on days like today. Last night, the nightmares came to torment me. I want to say that I don’t know what triggered them, but I do. So, I run. I run into the arms of my Savior, crying out to Him to steady the ache in my heart, the pain in my body from having relived the memories in my sleep. Sin is crouching at the door and I know it – I am choosing to run to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when the ache in my heart and the pain in body are crying to be numbed with the prick of the needle and the rush of poison that will aid forgetfulness.
Sitting in His presence, I read about a man who was instructed to build a tabernacle, a place of meeting, where God would dwell among his people. Moses and all of Israel obeyed. As I read, I am captivated by the God who chose to put the stone tablets where his very hand carved the commandments into the arc of the covenant or testimony. These commandments I have broken – all of them at some point or other, I am sure, if I could see as God sees.
Even while this storm is raging inside of me for poison and its empty promise of peace, God reveals his love. To cover the commandments, the men are instructed to build a covering…the mercy seat. On the mercy seat, blood of the sacrifice will be sprinkled. Tears coursing down my tired cheeks, the realization settles in my aching heart that this God who loves me always planned mercy for me and for you. From the beginning of time, He knew that we feeble humans were incapable of living holy and perfect lives. So, he provided the mercy seat.
Mercy. He chose mercy long ago for the way he would deal with sinful man. Covering the commandments, was the mercy seat, not the judgment seat.
But what is mercy? And how do I receive this mercy? The Mirraim-Webster Dictionary online defines mercy as “compassion or forbearance”; as “a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion.” This is how God covered the commandments he knew we would break. He does not say we were not guilty – that would go against his holiness. Instead, he declares our guilt, but offers His Son Jesus as payment for our sins.
Someone once told me that mercy was God not giving me what I fully deserved. I fully deserve death and hell. I have broken the commandments of a holy and righteous God. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a) “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Sin is falling short of perfection – and so that makes us all equal in one thing – we are all sinners because not one of us except Jesus Christ has lived a perfect life. Not many people like that word now a days because they find it offensive. But you know what? That doesn’t make it any less true.
So here is this hard, ugly, broken, beautiful redemption. Jesus Christ came. He lived a perfect life, was broken and died the death I deserved so that I could experience the mercy and grace of God. Just like the beauty of my ice storm. He ransomed me through His death on a cross – He paid God the price and bore God’s righteous anger so that I could be acceptable to God. My guilt and shame, my sin and failures, my falling to drugs and my unforgiveness. Jesus, in love and mercy, carried the punishment for that to the cross. It is a costly mercy and grace that He offers me, but through Him, God gives me hope of eternity in fellowship with him. My sins broke His body. My addictions and failures and stumblings nailed His hands and feet to the cross.
Jesus paid with His life to redeem my life, but He loved me that much. And here is the beauty of the broken: “Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 12:2.
Friend, if you don’t know what it means to be a sinner saved by grace, can I just ask you today to consider the beauty of a love for you that is so grand, so overwhelming, that it showed itself when Jesus spread His arms out willingly on the cross so that you might come to God?