Fall Out Boy put out a song called “Sunshine Riptide” while I was finishing my undergrad work. I often refer back to it because my classmate Paula and I shared a mutual love for Fall Out Boy’s album, Mania. I do not surf although the song is about a riptide—a strong wave that potentially threatens its prey. The closest I ever came to surfing was the time I ventured to Pensacola, Florida. I was on the beach testing the limits of my balance when the water took me under. Although I was frightened, I found my way back up again, to the surface. Greg had agreed to follow me inside the water because I was worried about keeping my balance. After all, I’m a guy with Cerebral Palsy. My balance is better than it should be. My balance is 60% miracle and 40% exercise. However, I sometimes under-estimate my own ability. I do still have unplanned awkward moments. The water kept moving. Greg turned to me and said: “Hold my hand. Then, wait and listen.”
Greg helped me understand that there was an unspoken rhythm to the water. I just needed to listen with circumspect. We were both quiet at the water together.
See then, that you walk (circumspectly) not as fools, but wisely…redeeming time because the days are evil.
I was able to anticipate when the waves might be overbearing by timing when the current moved.
We had some riptides between us, moments when the water surprised us. People are occasionally like that beach. They threaten like riptides. They will try to test the resolve of our faith and patience even after intentions are clarified.
Patrick Stump sang: “The world tried to burn all the mercy out of me but you know I wouldn’t let it.”
Mercy is burned out of us often a hard test to take. If life is some game of power… I learn each day that people are often waiting to see how you’ll break character. They are waiting to see what it might take for you to abandon your signature…. the virtue that sanctifies you…sets you apart from all the others.
I have been listening to songs about mercy. On the list was: Kenneth Mitchell’s “Mercy Seat” and Tru 4 U’s “Mercy Way”. I even pulled out an old Pebbles song that won a Grammy Award in 1990.
Mercy gets harder to give when people are unwilling to acknowledge its appearance. But I guess I now realize that mercy isn’t this conditional thing that circumstances determine. Mercy must be an act we sow without the limits of rules. Rules say: If I get this, then I’ll do that. But some rules are meant to be broken. For the sake of character development, sometimes a person’s example has to break the script. When it comes to being good… it about fulfilling your promise to yourself.
The call to consistent behavior is not about a personal vendetta. It’s about choosing virtue each time. Like the body has muscles that need use… virtues need an exhaustive amount of practice to become embedded in the heart to stick around.
If you want goodness, it must be sown from a pure place regardless of what happens. It is a sacrifice to approach a person without being hard-heart-ed. We must sacrifice our own ego (willingly and often) to be kind to others. And until we learn to do this, personal deeds to righteous are just motions sown in the hope of a return.
With great power comes great responsibility… it’s not just a Spiderman quote. It’s literally the example Jesus set when he chose to give life to people that plotted his death.
The point in this all, is: If your sense of goodness only comes from what people have done for you, it is not a goodness that can save, protect, or keep your spirit.
I didn’t always see mercy this way and the result was a resentful mind and heart. But I’m glad I finally see that mercy is not a gift that I legislate based on how well my life goes. Mercy is supposed to be sown whether I reap the grace and love I want or not. I have to redeem the limits of time while I have breath knowing that my faults are no bigger or greater than others, knowing that I can never be holy enough. But trusting that my faith is still worth something greater… if I choose onto it consistently.