Editor’s Note: Today we introduce Jo Flemings to you as a writer on our site. Please welcome her warmly and make her feel at home.
A Frame of Mercy
I work part-time. I am a nanny, personal assistant, specialty chef, and girl-Friday for a young mother in an affluent neighborhood in my town. I love my boss, her family, and my job. When I started in this position a couple of years ago, I was in dire straits because my husband’s company had failed and we lost everything. It was humbling and hard, as a former homeschooling mother of thirteen to have to get a job, but it was a great opportunity to use the skills I have for the good of everyone in the circumstance.
One of my first tasks was to polish silver frames for my, then, very pregnant boss. She has a simplistic decorating style in her home, one of the elemental aspects of which is family photos in silver frames, displayed in key places. She had silver frames as part of her wedding registry, so many of the frames she has in the home were wedding gifts. In each of these frames she has photos of her family: her immediate family when she was a child, her father who died when she was seventeen; photos of her and her husband at their wedding; of her mother and her in-laws at their wedding; and of course, photos of her children as newborns.
I did not have much experience with sterling when I started this job. I was vigorously polishing an engraved frame with a photo of her and her husband in it from their wedding day, when I noticed I had seriously over-rubbed the edge of the frame and it was now bent and misshapen in some areas from the pressure with which I was working the fragile edge of the frame. I said at the time (with so little understanding), “Oh! I have accidentally damaged this! You can take it out of my salary – and replace it if you prefer…” She deferred to me with kindness and told me not worry about it as she put it back in its place – buffed and bent.
A few weeks later, it was on my mind, so I took a picture of the mark on the frame in an effort to find a replacement online to make restitution for the damage. I thought it would cost me a couple of hours of work. I was shocked to realize it was worth a week of wages for me at the time. My employer never asked for the restitution I owed for that frame, and at that time, could never have repaid.
A year and a half later, I was again tasked with polishing the silver frames. I took that sterling frame into my hands, and every stroke on the silver was a penance as I went over each ding and flaw I personally inflicted upon that frame in my ignorance and inexperience. I carefully polished that frame again this time, and I was overwhelmed by the reality of the concept of MERCY. My boss forgave me the damage right then and there, when I made it, without me having any idea of what I had done. And the damage was significant….something I know she noticed and understood far more acutely than I did when it occurred. She knew the value of that frame monetarily, and sentimentally – it was a monogrammed gift, very personal. (I had no idea in the moment.)
She never let on, whether from compassion or innate understanding of the situation, I am not sure. I could never have paid her back for that frame when I damaged it. I needed every penny I earned at that time to help take care of my family. She endured that fault and never let it hinder our relationship. She never referred to it. And over time, in spite of that error, our mutual admiration for one another has grown into a partnership founded on the best possible aspects of a relationship of domestic service in the very personal context of fraternal respect and regard. I love my boss and her family very much, and she shows me a form of rightly ordered appreciation and love every day that I work for her.
As I polished that frame with the dings and flaws I put in it, this time I was overwhelmed by the nature and mystery of the mercy of my boss and friend toward me, but even more so of the mercy of God toward all of us.
We regularly do damage by our selfishness, the breadth and depth of which we have no idea. But, over time, as we grow and develop in love and relationship with Our Lord, we begin to understand more and more, from the heart, what we have done…the gravity of our errors; and, in turn, the value of Jesus’ intervention on our behalf by way of the cross. We come to understand so much more profoundly, as we increase in love and closeness to Him, the meaning each thing has to Him and how the damage devastates.
But, He never confronts us with this – because it is so much more than we can begin to fathom, and because it is His personal private pain – something He owns as all His own. Yet, in that personal private point, LOVE becomes an amazing catalyst for incorporation. As I grow in my love for Jesus, which is, of course, a gift He gives to me as I open my heart deeper and more profoundly to possession by Him, He allows me to enter into His own heart – and there I come to understand, in as far as I am able, the value of His condescension and of His mercy. I begin to develop an understanding of the gravity of my own faults and sins and how I have caused hurt and heartache to that which He loves and owns and is entitled; and as a result, I find myself engulfed in His mercy and compassion.
My only possible response is gratitude and praise in the midst of my overwhelming poverty of spirit.
I am so grateful to God for His love for me, for His compassion and MERCY, for His willingness to be my friend and to allow me to serve Him! And for the many opportunities in this life to learn so many valuable lessons about the depth of His love and kindness.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!*
How has the Lord taught you about His mercy?
* For the greater glory of God!
Art: Wedding Favour Gift, Londontown, 4 April 2012, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported; Composite of various images of Lijst [and additional frames], Silver Spoon, 12 December 2010 own work, CCO-1.0 Universal Public Domain; Head of Christ, After Rembrandt, 1621-1669, PD-US author’s term of life plus 100 years or less; all Wikimedia Commons.