Do you have questions that can’t be answered?…
Does it bother you that mercy is so difficult to understand?” *
I sat staring at the creek through the snowflakes yesterday, thinking about the nearness of Easter. Just then, Trout Creek’s resident red tail hawk dove to the wooded floor, wings awkwardly fanning the brown leaves, hopping and clawing, before launching to a sturdy branch for a fresh snack of field mouse. It only took a minute to rip and tear and gulp that mouse down. It reminded me of a day several years back when I was admiring a male cardinal at the feeder. Without a sound, a sharp shinned hawk dropped out of the Norway spruce, snatching that cardinal with swift surprise. The only evidence was a tiny cloud of red and pink wing fluff floating down onto the deck.
On our Costa Rica Outward Bound adventure, we were required to catch a chicken, kill it, and eat it. The catching was comical, but using a machete to behead it was gruesome, blood spurting in all directions while firmly holding the still nerve-wracked body in its violent and nauseating death shake. All so we could have some protein.
Our sanitized grocery store wrappings of chicken and ground beef have made us naïve. Time out in the wilderness quickly teaches not of the gentleness of nature, but of its brutishness. Is life so cruel? Out in the wilds, we can’t whitewash the truth that all this teeming life around us will, and must be stilled. The heron will gulp the minnow. The salmon feeds the bear. The vole grows the fledging owlet. The cougar will bring down the freckled fawn, and the speckled trout will become our dinner. For one to live, another must die. That’s the immutable law of nature and nourishment, that one’s weakness becomes another’s lifeblood. And, that is the sum of it; life depends on death by design.
The same can be said for Good Friday and the Easter resurrection and what the mercy of God in Jesus did for each of us. Jesus died our own death and bore the just punishment we deserve, his flesh torn, his blood spilled out. If you think about it, it isn’t really about cruelty, but the mercy of sacrifice. For our own life to go on, we must kill and eat. (before you vegetarians get too high-minded, even the plants must die to feed us).
So I think it is good to ponder, “what or who would I die for?” at this time of year. Perhaps we’d die for our loved ones, or a brother or sister in the faith. Some might answer country, or liberty. I know people who give up things for Lent, like chocolate or screen time. But that misses the entire point. Christ calls us to die to self first, to willingly give up our rights and our comforts by gladly and sacrificially taking up the hard work of our faith.
It is so clearly laid out for us in the Beatitudes. You are blessed when you recognize and mourn your selfishness and sin. And on up the ladder it climbs: life-giving blessing flows out of a meekness that denies self, hungers after God and a rightly pure heart, and shows mercy to others. Friends, isn’t it time to let Christ snatch you out of this world?
Please share with your friends!
* Mary Oliver. Devotions. Penguin Press, NY. 2017. p. 239.