The Horrible Mercy

She hates this. Ok – hate might be a little strong.
She barely tolerates this. That’s better.
She’s pinned down, while having a metal blade scraped over her back and legs. She has no reference to understand what is being done or why. There is no language that can explain to her what this is, why it has to happen, or how it will make things better. Her head is being held down at one end, and any attempt to get up or move is put down quickly. At the other end, the relentless digging and scraping of the blade.
Ezri hates the stripper blade. And shedding season.
Overdramatic? Maybe a little. But accurate from her point of view? Pretty much. She’s on her side, I’m by her head trying to comfort her, but really my job is to keep her on her side. So I gently put down any attempt to get up or get away. Vicki is wielding the stripper – the metal blade that pulls away all the loose fur from the undercoat that is matted and all clumped up.
And Ezzie is not into it.
So why put her through all this? If it was just to make her “purty,” we’d find another way. But she’s one of those breeds that have a double coat – the “hard” coat on the top, and a downy coat underneath for insulation. Our husky, Kira, also had this. When the weather turns warm, they “blow their coat” – the downy layer comes loose, it clumps to the top, and our black dog turns grey. And way ugly.
The efficient way to get rid of it is using a stripper of some sort – to rake through the hard coat, grab the clumps and pull them out. The end result? Enough extra fur to make three or four dogs. And a throw pillow.
So, the point?
I’ve been listening to the Daily Audio Bible every morning – establishing for the first time in my life a routine of being in God’s word every day. And we’ve been going through 1 & 2 Kings – long, long lists of names and deeds. And yet they’ve been teaching me a lot.
Near the end of 2 Kings, a phrase came up a number of times that caught me off guard – “they even sacrificed their own children, giving their sons and daughters to the fire.” Another note in the list of ways the Kings did evil in God’s sight, but it made me think…
What would bring a parent to the point where offering their beloved child as a sacrifice seemed to be a reasonable act? What desperation, what obligation, what influence is sufficient to make a parent take that step?
Now, while I let that thought roll around your noodle for a bit, allow me to execute a very sharp left turn into this…
The Bible talks about the process God uses to remake us into the image of Christ, with one of those pictures being the refiner’s fire. Metal being placed in the furnace, the waste and impurities being burned away, the pure metal remaining. Having watched some episodes of “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe, I’ve seen metal in a furnace being heated to thousands of degrees. I’ve seen glass being melted and shaped into new forms.
And none of it looked like a lot of fun. Except where Mike holds something hot or gets his face shield melted. That’s pretty funny, right there.
What would bring a parent to the point where putting their beloved child into the fire would seem a reasonable act?
God’s horrible mercy.
When we’re in the fire, when the wrecking ball has shattered everything we hold dear, when we seem to be so lost and alone, when everything we love or even recognize is swept away, all we seem to see is loss and pain. We see the agony of everything that has been torn away.
I know I did. When the wrecking ball swung in 2006, I went insane for a few months. The loss, the pain, the confusion – that was all I could see.
But what I’ve never once considered is what my Father went through. He threw his son into the fire. He swung the wrecking ball. He held me down on the floor while the stripper blade dug into my body, taking away the clumps, the matted dirt, the things I didn’t need anymore.
We sometimes think of God as this impersonal all-knowing being, executing His will because He knows what is needed and He works all things together for good for those who love Him, as it says in Romans 8:28. What we don’t think of, or at least I didn’t, is God our FATHER. A Father who daily makes the choice to throw His children into the flames. Yeah, He knows it’s needed – He wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t. And He knows what will result, the good that comes from this terrible act.
But He’s still a daddy. He watches as His kids writhe and cry and scream and hurt and burn. Could any parent just stand back, arms crossed, wrapped in the knowledge that this is for the best so it’s just got to go this way, and not hurt for their child? Could you or I just watch and not want to intervene, to take it away, or to take their place?
I turn into a puddle just having to hold Ezri down while we’re stripping her coat. I can’t even imagine what a parent goes through.
This Father considered it a reasonable act to offer His Son as a sacrifice for all of us. This Father watched His one and only beloved Son cry and suffer and scream and hurt and die that horrible death. He knew that it would result in life, for His beloved One and for the whole world, but His daddy’s heart must have ached with the pain.
And this Father has to endure the suffering of His children over and over again, to allow it to happen, to cause it to be.
The horrible mercy.
Father, when the fire burns, allow me to see some of Your tears. When the wrecking ball leaves all wasted, allow me to see some of Your heart. When I am ruined and alone and screaming and confused, allow me to see that I am not alone – my Daddy weeps with me.
Help me to trust, just like Ezri trusts me when I hold her down. It doesn’t make it easier, it doesn’t make it hurt less, but it does help. I’m not suffering alone, I’m going through what is necessary, and my Father is standing near, hearing my cries and longing to make it all better at just the right time – not a moment before, but not a second longer than necessary.
Keep my eyes on the joy we’ll both feel when the fire is past and I’m closer to what You have in mind for me. Thank you, Daddy.

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