May ’21: The Mercy and Great Love of God
By Kathy Jung
During a time of reflection, I had an image of Abba Father, looking larger than any human father, standing with a wide stance and arms spread out in exuberant welcome, eager for embrace. And there I was too, off to his left, looking small. Not just because God appeared as a friendly giant in comparison. But because I was in fact, a child version of myself. There I stood with wide stance, and arms spread out, in perfect copycat fashion. My Father God glanced over at me, and on His face, I saw his good pleasure and amusement. He understood my desire to be just like Him.
This song was the impetus for my imagined scene:
O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship (YouTube)
”O come to the altar. The Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.”
The mercy and great love of God, expressed in his forgiveness of our sins, is the very core of our faith. It is what all our hopes for this life and the life to come are anchored on. Without His forgiveness, there is no promise of eternity with Him, none of his friendship and guidance here on earth, and no possibility for wholeness. It is because God forgives us that we do not remain the persons known by our sins. By His forgiveness, we are new creations, with all the possibilities for goodness that our likeness to our Father bears out. And by our forgiveness of others and ourselves, we are free from the soul sickness of bitterness and self-condemnation, to freely love without fear.
Authentic forgiveness is often a painful journey to begin, for it requires us to tell the truth of events and emotions. But the courage to face what is required, leads to burdens lifted, new-found capacity for compassion and self-compassion, and a deeper well to hold peace and joy. Forgiveness of others and ourselves, is a path that is often made possible by the safe embrace of community, lovingly listening with mercy and acceptance, until we are ready to forgive.
Forgiveness is a regeneration from hard stone to tender flesh. It is one of the main ways, that we can enlarge our hearts to love others well. We become like our Father, who loves mercy over judgment, with a heart that is ocean-deep in its capacity to offer the kind of love that is pure and kind. Instead of trying to love better, without having a better heart to love with (which is exhausting and unsustainable), forgiveness trains and transforms us, that we might love with ease from a place of wholeness.
It has taken me decades, but I have recently offered up forgiveness to a person of my past. I saw it in another image. I brought it to the cross. Jesus took it tenderly from me, knowing what it had cost me to finally release it. I didn’t know how to live without it, because it had come to be part of how I defined myself. But Jesus assured me in letting go, it would not be forgotten. Jesus released it into the flow from his very own crucified body. I saw it float in a small stream that became a river of new life.
I am a child, apprenticing under my Father’s example, encouragement and instruction. All I know is that God loves me. He loves me very, very well. And because of this unchanging fact, my chrysalis-heart is changing. I want to be like the one who loves me. I can release anger, fear and indifference because I don’t need them anymore. I am willing to step out into the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable, even if it means letting go of what I thought kept me safe and strong. I can take any faith plunge because His great love for me, makes it possible.
And here, along with the Apostle Paul, is my prayer for all of us:
(The additions in parentheses, are my own)
My journey of forgiveness led by God’s Spirit, was helped along by the Journey Discipleship Course, October 2020 to March 2021. Find out more at Journey Discipleship Course — Journey Canada.