Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Lord Have Mercy

I have always considered myself a competent person. I rarely lack confidence in my ability to do something that I set my mind to. If there is something that I want or need to accomplish, I find out what I need to know and go out and do my best to get it done. I have always had this sense of being capable and I certainly never had any problems with self-esteem. In other words, I have always been pretty proud of myself and my abilities.

Then I had kids.  

And I learned that my view of myself was rather skewed. 

I learned that I am not so perfect as I thought I was, and I have learned that I have many faults (gasp!). I have become aware, thanks to the little imitators running around my house, that I am not so kind and loving as I always liked to think. 

There are so many situations, so many unexpected challenges that come with raising children that force me, again and again, to acknowledge that I am just not a perfect person and I really do not have all it takes to mother my children the way I ought. Being a mother has driven me to my knees and has forced me to seek help.  

I am broken and sinful and I need God. And so I seek Him and I ask for mercy. 
 Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 
For a long time when I said the above prayer (which is known as the Jesus Prayer) I thought that I was saying something like this: "Lord, take pity on me and do not punish me for my sins, even though I am such a wretched sinner."

But then I learned something about two of the words in that prayer that changed the whole thing. I learned that sinner, in Greek, refers to one who has missed the mark. It's someone who has aimed poorly and so has missed his intended target.

Then I learned the following about the word "mercy": 

"The word mercy in English is the translation of the Greek word eleos. This word has the same ultimate root as the old Greek word for oil, or more precisely, olive oil; a substance which was used extensively as a soothing agent for bruises and minor wounds. The oil was poured onto the wound and gently massaged in, thus soothing, comforting and making whole the injured part. The Hebrew word which is also translated as eleos and mercy is hesed, and means steadfast love. The Greek words for 'Lord, have mercy,' are 'Kyrie, eleison'  that is to say, 'Lord, soothe me, comfort me, take away my pain, show me your steadfast love.' Thus mercy does not refer so much to justice or acquittal  a very Western interpretation  but to the infinite loving-kindness of God, and his compassion for his suffering children! It is in this sense that we pray 'Lord, have mercy,' with great frequency throughout the Divine Liturgy."* (source)

So when I say the Jesus prayer, I am now able to hear it more like this: "Lord, pour out Your healing oil on me, one who has missed the mark, so that I might no longer miss it." 

Of course this has also changed the way that I pray for others. I can say "Lord, have mercy on my child, or my spouse, or Miss Smith" and with these thoughts in mind the prayer no longer comes from a place of judgement or condemnation, but instead comes from a place of love. By saying Lord, have mercy, I am asking God to heal and comfort and soothe the person I pray for, rather than asking Him to change and fix and straighten out that person. 

And so, day by day, I have learned to seek help from the Only One who can heal my brokenness and who can change me for the better, so that one day I might not miss the mark anymore, but instead aim true and be whole. 

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. 


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