What Did I Do to Deserve This?

This post is part of a new project that I’m working on. Visit Jess Alston’s website to learn more about the Dig Deep Podcast.

“Mercy is radical kindness. Mercy means offering or being offered aid in desperate straits. Mercy is not deserved. It involves absolving the unabsolvable, forgiving the unforgiveable.”

― Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy


Florence has made me testy.

On Tuesday, I did something you should never do: I read a text message seconds before it was time to lead my small group. The message alerted me that my roommate woke up to her feet sloshing on the wet carpet as she stepped out of bed. Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

Like I said, Florence has made me testy. Ok, fine, it’s not all Hurricane Florence’s fault, seeing as we’ve spent weeks drowning in rainy days around here. But I felt like a white-washed zombie all through small group, envisioning my roommate needing one of those inflatable rainbow unicorns to float in her new pool, and me just opening windows to let stacks of $100 bills blow into the wind.

As I straddled the inside of a well in my backyard, rain boots digging into the mud, scooping out gallons of water, this little voice popped in my head, faint but still present: “What have I done to deserve this?”

I am a person who wants everything to line up. If X, then Y. A + B = C. For a creative brain, I still appreciate a proper input, output scenario. So for the good and the bad, my mind can spiral off into thinking I’ve done something to deserve this outcome.

Buy a house at a wildly young age. √ Never miss a mortgage payment. √ Care deeply about fiscal responsibility. √ I’m a good human, for crying out loud. So why is my basement flooding? Why, Florence?

Why, God?

It’s a risk to set out to write this weekly column, asking God to show me big things. I should have known he would have me actually digging deep in real life as I invited the messiness of transformation. This has happened to me before in “hyper spiritual times,” when I felt peace about going to seminary and then mysterious checks started showing up for the exact amount I needed.

God’s mercy is radically mysterious. As Jess shared this week, Philip Yancey (in his book, What’s So Amazing About God?, and other pieces) refers to it as “the atrocious mathematics of the gospel.”

We want everything to line up, to earn something that we deserve. After two weeks of work, we expect a paycheck. And yet. (Always, the and yet.) It’s bad math that I’m even writing this to you today. I don’t deserve to be walking with God, better yet, sharing what he’s doing in my life.

Here’s what I’m processing this week after Dig Deep:

  1. Mercy is wild. My parents took off work to help me bail out, take me in, keep me sane. Family in carpeting, a friend sent wearing wings years ago who keeps giving me way more than I deserve. This is when that little voice is helpful: “What have I done to deserve this?” Nothing. I was born. I offered love (sometimes). That’s it.
  2. The transition from gratitude to reasoning good behavior is a scary one. As Jess shared this week, it’s easy to slip after someone shows us mercy. We desperately want to figure out what we did to earn this radical kindness. Surely, it’s that time I gave my parents a finger painting that really sealed the deal for a lifetime of love. (Oh, pa-lease!, as Michelle Tanner would say.)
  3. We can choose to receive mercy. This word “receive” is a big game changer. Let’s think about a football receiver. They have to be trained, open, and ready to catch the ball. Ready to receive. It’s an action.

Free of guilt. Free of blame. Free of earning. It is a gift. It makes no sense and perfect sense at exactly the same time.

And what happens next, after we view everything through the lens of God’s mercy?

Only time will tell.

Romans 12:1

6 thoughts on “What Did I Do to Deserve This?

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