Thursday, March 03, 2005


Mercy & Truth, Head & Heart

I am working through Proverbs with a close friend. It's difficult for me, Proverbs seems like such a mismash of instruction and comparisons. I don't like that I react that way -- this is as much God's revealed word as John or Isaiah or James -- but I feel as though I plod through these verses and every once in a while something that speaks to me or my situation pops out, but it is slow going and I feel like I should be getting more out of it. I pray that the Lord makes me more open to ALL of his word, and not just the stuff that SEEMS to read with more verve or story.

That said, I'm at Chapter 3, and the following stood out:

3Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
4 And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.

As with most of Proverbs, there's the two sides of what's being compared. And with me, there's this struggle where I only end up with half of a necessary pair. Both of these verses speak of two halves of several necessary pairs, and for me, the pairs themselves interrelate in important ways.

Somedays I only want to talk Mercy, that's usually when I am in sin or dwelling on my shortcomings or disobedient or rebellious in some way. I want all the forgiveness part, and I'm only focused on me. Whether others need Mercy is not really of consequence, God is big enough, let Him give them Mercy, I'm busy thinking about how much I need it from Him to worry about others.

Other days, I'm all truth. Speaking truth to power as it were, or just speaking Truth with the capital T, and all about what's wrong around me, who's wrong around me, righteously indignant. I only see the faults of others, and somehow when I'm on that bent, I don't manage to see my own situation with the same laser-like precision.

It reveals something to me that the Psalmist had been led to urge us to bind mercy and truth around our neck and write them on the tablet of our heart. We need to connect with both head and heart. If we deal with only the rational and knowledge (head) information, our response to others or our own behavior can be clinical, too detached, impersonal. (Kind of like talking all the time by email and not being able to have the face to face that allows you to fully see and feel others' responses! You want that full human connection.)

If we respond only with the leanings of our heart, we can over-involve ourselves in others, in their problems or behaviors, and lose any detachment that would allow us to guide or advise. Our emotions by themselves are a poor subsitute for a full awareness, and can cause our own behavior to vary depending on how we feel. And feelings can lead us away from truth.

But a mix of head and heart, especially when focused on mercy and truth, can help us be fully engaged with others and improve our readiness to be vessels of God's purpose. By serving others faithfully in mercy and truth in even measure, we grow in esteem and trustworthiness with our fellow travellers. We grow through serving Him fauthfully in both areas: speaking truth to sin both of ourselves and to others in love; and receiving mercy in admitting our own shortcomings and showing mercy to others as they stumble.

I think it helps me to ponder that the Psalmist suggests that the right balance of truth and mercy will help me find favor and high esteem not only of God but of man. That's a part I worry about, with my preoccupation with what I know to be my weaknesses in this area. I need to pay heed, that others may notice or remark on things I do, but I do them in service to the Lord and strive to always give Him the glory. That man may note such things is probably an encouraging sign that we may yet witness by our service to Him.

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