The Gift of Mercy
By Julie Albin
-- “Katie, it’s time for dinner.” Bill called from the bottom of the stairs.
No answer. “Katie, we’re waiting.” I added. Still no answer. “Katie!”
The bedroom door opened, and my eight-year-old emerged.
“I was working on your Mother’s Day present,” she explained.
Ever since my daughters' learned that Mother’s Day was less than one week away, they have been ignoring their chores, refusing to come when I call, and fighting about whose homemade gift will be the nicest.
By Wednesday evening, I'd had enough. “Stop making me gifts." I said slowly, trying to contain my frustration. "I don't want any gifts. I just want my daughters to come when I call their names.”
As I continued to lecture, Hollie climbed the ladder of her bunk bed. When I noticed that she was crying on the top bunk with her back turned to me, I came to my senses and apologized.
"I just wanted your day to be special," Hollie said through her sobs. "Will you forgive me, Hollie?" I asked as I put my arm around her little shoulders.
Hollie nodded as she wiped away tears. "What’s wrong with me?" I wondered as I descended the stairs after tucking my daughters into bed. "Why can’t I get excited about what the girls are planning for Mother’s Day?"
"Maybe because I didn’t ask for it," I thought reluctantly, not wanting to admit that my main problem with their behavior, was that it reminded me of my own. In an ironic twist of fate, I was getting a taste of what I had been dishing out for years: how it feels when family members spend so much time doing things for you, that they have no time to do anything with you.
How many times have I been guilty of ignoring the girls to prepare for the next birthday party or holiday? The thought of counting them made me grab, not a calculator, but the remote control.
Seeking solace, I slid the movie Ice Princess into the DVD player to watch the final scene where the main character, Casey Carlyle, skates to the song Reachin’ For Heaven by Diana DeGarmo.
"I wish there were no mistakes," I thought to myself as I watched her fall on the ice during the long program. "Then there would be no need for regret," I added when Casey's mom walked up after her performance to apologize for not supporting her daughter's dream to skate.
"Why forgive her so fast?" I wondered as Casey accepted her mom's brief, albeit sincere, apology. I received my answer when, in her redemption, I saw my own.
This on-screen mom's behavior had been shamelessly self-serving throughout the movie, and yet her daughter refused to hold even the tiniest grudge. My behavior had been equally self-centered. Yet, with Mother's Day several days away, Hollie had already given me the greatest gift I could ever hope for—mercy.
Many times, what irritates us about others, educates us about ourselves. While contemplating this a few days later as I drove my daughters and two of their friends to a play in a nearby city, I became so lost in thought that I forgot to watch my speedometer.
"Please don't let there be a police officer behind me," I prayed after noticing that I was going well over the speed limit.
Letting up on the gas, I nervously looked in my rear view mirror to find I was being tailgated by, not a trooper, but the county sheriff. Unsure of what to do, I signaled and then merged into the slow lane. To my surprise, the sheriff did not follow. Instead, he sped past, appearing relieved to have me out of the way.
Yes, I reminded myself as the police car disappeared into traffic, the greatest gift we will ever receive is the one we least deserve—mercy.
This article appears in the June 2006 edition of Julie’s monthly newsletter, Time Out For Digging Out.
Julie is a freelance writer, speaker and founder of the online ministry DiggingOutTogether.com. To read more articles written by Julie, sign up for her free monthly newsletter Time Out For Digging Out. Julie lives in Elmhurst, Illinois with her husband, Bill, and their two daughters, Katie and Hollie.
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