Not too long ago I had a wrestling match with my youngest daughter, something we do quite often. This particular day I had to cut our bout short.
I trapped her legs between mine, clamped her arms to her sides and her back to my chest in a one-armed hug, and applied enough pressure so that she could accomplish little more than a wiggle.
“You want me to let go?” I stuck my nose in her neck to tickle-torture an affirmative out of her. After squirming just to double-check my grip, she agreed. “Okay, okay. Let me go.”
She stiffened. Struggled a little more. Shook her head.
“You want me to let go don’t you?” Nod. “Then say ‘mercy.'” Vigorous head shaking. Then the real battle began. She flexed and pushed and strained and twisted. Breath held. Shoulders stiff. Feet jerking in short kicks.
I held on, amazed by her obstinacy. Between laughing and having to reestablish my hold (she’s a strong one), I’d repeat, “Say ‘mercy.'” And she’d respond with a firm, “No.” Her giggling petered out as she got frustrated.
She wanted me to let go. That had already been established. And she was more than willing to take my offer of mercy if it were unconditional. But a formal surrender? Too proud for that. So proud, in fact, she was willing to get deeper into bondage by struggling, rather than simply say the word “mercy” and receive freedom.
Of course I let her go once her “ha, ha, ha” weakened to “he, he, he” and then became “wa, wa, wa.” She’s four. Smack a kiss on that stubborn cheek and set her free.
It didn’t escape me, however, that the response to Christ by many is sadly no different from that of a pre-schooler. We despise the idea of surrender. And in doing so, despise mercy as well.
There’s bondage aplenty: spiritual, physical, financial, sexual, and too many more to name. If it exists, we splash in it, swim in it, or plunge right in to drown in it.
And if mercy is our unconditional right, if we can live like we want and spend our days how we wish, and Christ’s blood is still for the taking without us ever doing the asking, then by all means shower some mercy on us.
But ask? Surrender? Lay down our pride and open our mouths and admit, “I need You. I can’t do this on my own. I confess that You died for me. I confess You as the only way to forgiveness, the only One who can grant me eternal life, the only One who can save me.”
We’d rather stay where we are–no, descend further into the depths–in our struggle to refuse Him.
It’s a grievous irony, this fight to stay in bondage at the expense of victory which comes through surrender. This wanting to live forever but not wanting the Way, the Truth and the Life. This desire to do it all on our own.
When. We. Simply. Cannot.
The mercy of God in Christ is life. He won’t force it on us, but He is ever offering it to us. Let us not despise it.
“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” ~Psalm 86:5