He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.(Micah 6:8)
My family and I have been attending a semi-programmed Quaker meeting. There are hymns and a brief message followed by silent waiting worship and a concluding hymn. Recently, I heard one of the best sermons I have ever heard in which the speaker, a member of the congregation, reflected upon Micah 6:8. I can't really say much about the sermon because it was delivered so humbly and simply that it had an eloquence that would only be ruined by my own verbose attempts to comment upon it.
In the silent worship that followed, a few speakers rose to share messages. I was the last to do so. This is the story I told:
My grandfather had bowed legs and a stutter. People thought he really wasn't very smart because of this, but he was. Sometimes, instead of talking to him, they'd look past him and talk to my grandmother instead. "What did he say?" they'd ask as if he wasn't there. People couldn't be bothered to listen to him. It used to make me so angry.
Grandpa owned a small paint manufacturing company housed in an old stone blacksmith shop. One day, when I was a teenager, a man came into the shop. I watched as he talked past my grandfather to my grandmother. "How's the old guy doing?" he asked her as if my grandfather wasn't there. He was insulting and dismissive, but Grandpa didn't strike back. Instead, he kept quietly telling my grandmother to add items in the bag and to decrease the cost. I couldn't believe it. Instead of retaliating against this jerk, my grandfather was giving him free stuff and decreasing the price of his purchase? I sat on the chair next to the counter and seethed. It wasn't fair!
The man continued with his bluster, and my grandfather continued in his quiet manner to complete the transaction. Then Grandpa said, "She was a good woman. We'll miss her." The man's entire demeanor changed and the bluster stopped. My grandfather knew, although I did not, that the man I saw as just a jerk was a human being in a great deal of pain. The man told my grandfather how hard things had been and Grandpa listened. My grandfather was merciful.
That was all I had to say and then we sang Amazing Grace together.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
was blind but now I see.
I'm not sure what any of this means or why I was called to share that story in meeting for worship, but I've been thinking about it ever since. I spend so much time trying to figure stuff out, but maybe it is a good deal more simple than I make it. Grandpa just chose kindness and let justice follow on its heels. If I had rushed to my grandfather's defense that day, I would have done so believing I was defending a vulnerable old man from a callous jackass. There's justice in that, but no mercy and certainly no humility. I would have missed the moment when my grandfather's kindness stopped time in my heart. Almost thirty years later the power of that moment still fills me with wonder and brings me to tears.