Until we taste the bitterness of our own misery we will never relish the sweetness of God's mercy. Until we see how foul our sins have made us we will never pay our tribute of praise to Christ for washing us... If you would know the heart of your sin then you must know the sins of your heart!
My own life collided with that saying, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts,” not long after that conversation with my mom at the car wash.
The gentle correction of my mother that day was pretty much summed up in a single sentence: “Mother, do you realize that by saying that, you just erased every single one of your precious grandchildren?” Wrapped around that truth, our conversation felt so rich, and it closed with this encouragement as I dropped her off at her house: “No more ifs and buts, Mama.”
Only a few mornings later, I sat in my reading chair with my Bible in hand. I didn't know then it would be a day the gentle whispers of God shined a light on a great “if only” default mindset in my own life. One that aligned very closely with my mother’s – a regret which happened to be exactly 45 years old as well.
I never spoke it out loud, but this dark thought lived in my heart for a very long time and danced through my head whenever life got hard: “If only I hadn't been found in the snowbank.” The snowbank I fell asleep in on that cold winter night in kindergarten.
I felt no pain while I was sleeping in the white blanket of snow without any mittens. Making the move from there to heaven would have been absolutely painless. Instead, the later pain of having my hands thawed, dressed and bound for healing purposes, was lengthy and excruciating. But the physical pain was really only secondary to the constant ache in my heart.
I didn’t have a passel of grandchildren at the time of the car-wash conversation with my mom, but I had given birth to a son that I couldn’t imagine my life without for a single second. And if my wish to have died in the snowbank had been granted, he wouldn’t exist either. It was such a humbling thought. Much like the streetlamp that happened to illuminate my small sleeping body in the snow, the lamplight of God’s word illuminated the sin of that great default in my life ... if only I had frozen to death when I was in kindergarten.
As I thought about these things, I was suddenly struck by the extreme mercy of God that had been ever-present in my life. I realized I wanted a full understanding of the meaning of that word, mercy. I got out my dictionary to look it up, hoping I could more fully grasp its depth and width. I read:
“MERCY: a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion, a fortunate circumstance; it was a mercy they found her before she froze.”
Many times the Word of God will bring me to my knees in repentance, but this time, God used Merriam-Webster – the dictionary.
As the tears poured, I relished the sweetness of the mercy of God in all of it. I had to dry my eyes to make sure. Yes, it was really there: it was a mercy they found her before she froze. The death-wish default mode in my mind was forever erased that morning in my beloved denim reading chair. God himself really had sent aid to rescue me that night in the snowbank, via a paperboy taking a shortcut through an empty lot in the snowstorm.
I felt a certainty then, that God would be faithful to continue to help me every step of the way home, to send aid and succor for every need and trial ... and He has.
No more ifs and buts.