I stood in the kitchen of our little home and stirred soup. After I ladled chowder into the bowls, I carried my beautiful pitcher from full of sweet tea to the table. Without warning, the brightly-colored pitcher slipped from my hand. I watched it fall in slow motion and shatter on the floor. Colorful shards bounced and scattered, broken pieces of a once useful vessel. The floor was covered with bright red and yellow ceramic chunks and jagged turquoise triangles.
I leaned over and carefully scooped up the larger pieces, angry at my carelessness before I swept up the remaining fragments. As I sopped up sticky tea with paper towels I was sad at the loss of my pretty pitcher. I wasn’t ready to part with it—even though I knew I couldn’t make it whole again. I decided to wash off the shards and store them in a plastic container. Maybe I can create something from the pieces later.
As I cleaned up the mess, I pondered the strength of pottery, created for service. Or was it really weakness, fashioned for fracturing? Either way, it was no match for an unsteady hand and an unforgiving tile floor. In the months to come, I would learn about the weakness and strength of our little family. We would falter and fail and taste brokenness like we couldn’t imagine, a lot like the pieces scattered around me.
The day finally came when I had time to reclaim my broken pitcher. With my curious firstborn at my heels, I gathered supplies and took my project to the back porch. “Momma, that’s broken,” she said, pointing to the colorful pieces of pottery from my beloved pitcher. As I spread mortar on a stone and carefully fitted the broken pieces together, I answered, “Yes, it used to be something beautiful, but I broke it.”
“Why did it break, Momma?”
“It slipped out of Momma’s hand,” I said softly.
“Oh,” she said.
I looked at the mosaic I was creating on the stone and thought, It broke because it was too weak to stay together, but now I’m going to make it into something new and beautiful, something stronger.- Rhinestone Jesus, Kristen Welch
I wrote these words more than 5 years ago. The last few years (and weeks in particular) have been some of the busiest, hardest, and best of my life. We’ve worked countless hours getting ready to open our first Mercy House Global Market (brick and mortar retail store). One of our employees asked, as we tagged and barcoded jewelry from around the world, built shelves and product displays, dealt with fire codes and stepped out in faith one more time, “So, have you always wanted to open a retail store?”
The question made me laugh. And nearly cry.
I choked out a hysterical and emphatic, No.
It’s been nearly 7 years since I was wrecked. I thought about all we’ve been through–the sheer, gut-wrenching heartache and heartbreak of helping the hurting. How our hearts have been broken in two and put back together only to be broken again. How God has done so many miracles they have become a normal part of every day life. How He continues to pull us deeper and deeper into this yes so that when we are in over our heads we have no option but to reach to Him for help. How He has rescued and redeemed and restored teen moms, poor and oppressed women, so many, including me. How I have aged a hundred years and cried more tears than I thought possible. How He has been with us every step of the way. He has opened door after door and today, we stand ready to open a door to our local community, to invite them in and tell them the stories of women around the globe, to ask them to become apart of something bigger than all of us when we lend a hand to the poor.
I was so moved by this Seedbed devotion that my friend Deb sent me the other day, discussing the end of times judgement parable when God separates the sheep from the goats in Matthew 24:42 and urging us to take the severe warning of what Christians should look like, who we should be becoming:
“Yes, we are in fact saved by grace alone through faith alone by the unmerited favor and forgiveness of God through the shed blood of his Son on the Cross and his glorious resurrection from the dead. Nothing we can do, no matter how extraordinarily meritorious can ever cancel our own unpayable debt and earn for us the grace of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ—N O T H I N G. I think Jesus is mercifully giving us the answers to the final exam. He’s revealing to us what a person who is saved by grace alone through faith alone actually looks like in the midst of a fallen and mercilessly cruel world. The hallmark quality of a person who has received mercy is that they have become a person who shows mercy.
In this famous final judgment parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus is offering us a severe mercy. He is giving us the gracious opportunity, right now, to examine ourselves preemptively according to the terms of the judgment before it actually happens. The question? Are we becoming the kind of people whose lives exude the evidence of having been saved by grace through faith. Or are we fooling ourselves?
Translation: Am I becoming the kind of person for whom it is becoming “second nature” to give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, and welcome to the stranger and clothes to the naked and compassion for the sick and love to the imprisoned?”
I looked around at our nearly 6000 square foot barn that volunteers will begin filling this week and the hundreds of bins of product that will (hopefully) sell at our Grand Opening on Nov. 5 and the weeks and months after, and I said, “These aren’t just things we do because we think we should. These acts of mercy are part and parcel of who we are becoming. We show mercy because we have received mercy. When we say yes to God, we have no idea what He will do with it.
This is the hallmark quality of a person who has received mercy– they freely give it away.
No, I never wanted any of this. But God showed me mercy. And then He showed me all I had in the face of what the world was lacking and I had no choice but to respond and give mercy away.