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I’m always amazed by how God works in my life in the ways I least expect. The simplest words uttered by my son have totally transformed the way I viewed God’s mercies.
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength…”
I am still nursing my son, who just turned two. Our nursing sessions are short and infrequent, most days Ezra nurses about twice a day. Sometimes, only once. I am finding that other sessions are easy to drop if he’s distracted enough, but the one he holds onto is nursing first thing in the morning. I think it’s like me and coffee, ya know? It’s warm and sweet, and in his case, can be done lying down, still in bed, snuggled close to mommy. Sounds to me like a nice way to wake up.
Now that he is a much more vocal child, he talks about nursing. If he’s not done, he lets me know. More nurse? Nurse couch? Nurse bed? Switch [sides]? More nursies? etc. A few weeks ago, out of the blue he asked for more mursies? Maybe he just wasn’t awake enough, but his brain inserted a different letter. I did a mental “aww that’s so cute!” but then was overwhelmed with the simple, unintentional beauty of his phrase.
Instantly, my mind went to this verse:
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
In the environment in which I was raised, the most common definition I ever heard of “mercy” was this: “God not giving you something bad that you deserve.” While there is certainly some truth to this definition (as you can see from this very verse), I think it shows only the negatives aspect of mercy and totally misses the true beauty of God’s mercy. A definition like this makes me think of God like this mean old king who you know should say “OFF WITH HER HEAD!” but instead sets me free and makes me a servant. Which is great! I mean, I’m not dead. But isn’t really a personal thing. I’m still the bad guy. And now I have to feel indebted to this guy who let me go because he had mercy on my poor, miserable soul.
There are two words for mercy in the Hebrew that carry slightly different connotations. But the definition of the word used here as compassion (racham), which is also translated mercies throughout the Psalms, is this: womb…compassion. The word is translated other places in Scripture as compassion, womb, bowels, pity, damsel, and tender love. This is a far different picture that is painted than the one I described above. God’s mercy sounds to me more like maternal love than a commuted prison sentence.
Psalm 103 expresses this picture even more beautifully:
Bless the Lord, O my soul: who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
(pitieth is the verb form of mercy…same Hebrew word root)
The Psalmist seeks God’s mercies with almost a hint of desperation…sensing their life-giving power:
Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live:
Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord:
let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.
This is where everything tied together for me. A nursing child asking for more. A mother’s breast. Mercies, new every morning. Womb. Life.
Just as my life-giving supply of warm, sweet milk is ready and available for my young child, so God’s mercies are great and readily available to us when we seek His presence.
When Ezra nurses first thing in the morning, he comes to me without pretense. Most mornings he doesn’t even care about getting a dry diaper on first. All he wants is that time with mommy. He kicks his feet and squirms and fidgets the whole time, but the moment I take it away he will whimper and cry for more. He rubs my hair against his face and on his eyes, feeling it’s softness and I imagine, smelling it’s sweet (or not-so-sweet) smell.
I think that’s how God wants us to come to us. Not like some trying-to-be-perfect indebted servant begging for mercy! mercy! or fulfilling a chore out of guilt or a sense of duty…but as a disheveled child begging for a life-giving strength that he knows can only come through closeness with the One who gave him life to begin with.
What if we came to Him like that… God, I’m here, cradled in your arms. More mercies? You know I’m just a child. I don’t understand so much about my world…it’s all so confusing and frustrating. But right here I feel safe. More mercies? I know I’m going to fall flat on my face a thousand times today. I’m going to be drawn to danger and You are going to have to save me from it over and over because I don’t even know what I’m doing. I’m going to get bumps and scrapes and bruises because of my foolish actions. I’m going to disobey, and scream, and cry, and throw fits because I’m just a child and cannot possibly understand my world the way You see it. More mercies? More love? I know You are going to love me through everything I have to face today. Cuz you are my Daddy and You never stop loving me even when I frustrate Your grace a thousand times over. More mercies?
I’ve started coming to God this way…most times over my morning coffee. Sometimes I seek strength through the Bible, but most times it’s just me in my pajamas and disheveled hair saying God I have no clue what I’m doing in this life…I’m going to let you down so many times today. Help me. I need your love. More mercies?
And His supply never runs out either. His racham fail not. They never cease. They are always there no matter how many times I have to beg for more on difficult days. And unlike me who sometimes pushes aside my child’s needs because I’m just too busy, or sore, or tired… He never says no.