Annette is an amazing woman. She partnered with me faithfully in these first years of Desert Stream. She endured the threat of men who shared my vulnerability while imparting wisdom to a fragile new work.
Yet she resented it. Desert Stream was a far cry from the life she had envisioned for herself. She wanted to be married to a basketball player, or if a religious leader, a Presbyterian pastor (her childhood denom.) who had a heart for basketball players. Little consolation I was.
Deeper still, she had been raised in a household where the recurring crisis revolved around her older brother, a practicing homosexual and substance abuser. Her memories of homosexuality were not warmly sentimental.
Some of the men we served at Desert Stream triggered what she had been subject to as a child and teen: crisis phone calls, distraught parents, a much older sib whose immaturity demanded that she become ‘bigger’ than he was.
Her eyes could not help but see some of our members through the lens of her own wounding and resentment.
God did what only He could do through His spirit of mercy. During one meeting, Annette felt unusually cut off: ‘What am I doing here in this gathering of losers?’ She thought. As the men and women recounted their struggles and failures, she secretly prided herself that she had never committed any of their sins, never even come close.
The Holy Spirit of mercy fell on her in the extended time of closing prayer. God instructed her to open her eyes and look carefully at the 11 people gathered around her. ‘Look at their lives, each one of them, and know that the blood I shed for each is the same mercy that I have given you, over and over and over.’
That mercy poured over Annette like rain from a summer storm; eyes closed, she received memories of what God had done for her, a ‘traditional’ sinner. That mercy broke the power of her judgments against the ‘exotic’ ones around her.
When she looked up and out again, she felt a kind of love for those around her that she had never experienced. She saw friends, not clients. Through a revelation of mercy, she began to accept herself as one of these fellow pilgrims, as reliant upon the slain Lamb as they were in order to reach the City of God.
From that point on, Annette began to grow in her understanding and offering of mercy. It staggers me: her eyes can now see others out of a depth of mercy that shames my mild judgments. Glory to the Lamb.
‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful…For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’ (Lk 6:36, 38)
‘When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ (Matt. 9:36)
‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’