I don’t dig music like I once did. But when I was younger, I would plop my skinny behind in the driver’s seat of my 1964 Ford Galaxy 500, turn on the ignition switch, and fire that massive 289 up. Without fail, my next move was to tune in the radio to WGGG AM.
Gainesville’s finest. Why AM? Because my old Ford came equipped with an AM radio and that is all.
Later, I would save up enough money to purchase a state of the art 8-track tape player. It was unreliable at best, but it was high tech for the time.
One of my favorite groups, back in the day, was a somewhat local band called The Allman Brothers Band. I loved those guys. Went to their concerts. Bought their tapes and records. And my all-time favorite Allman Brothers song was an old blues tune called, Stormy Monday. I think T-Bone Walker originally recorded it way back when.
The eagle flies on Friday
Saturday I go out to play
Yeah, the eagle flies on Friday
And Saturday I go out to play
Sunday, I go to church, yeah
And I kneel down and pray
And this is what I say,
“Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy on me.”
You know I cried,
“Lord have mercy on me.
Lord have mercy on me.
Okay, so it ain’t all that deep. But the plaintive wail of the blues has a soulful, prayerful sound to it. Like it comes from way down deep inside a wounded soul. I guess that’s the point of the blues, huh? Hurt people lamenting their pain. And pain is universal to all of mankind. Everyone falls prey to anguish at some point.
When it comes to praying, I’m a little uncomfortable speaking to God like he’s my personal bellhop in the sky. Like the old Janis Joplin song from back in the day says:
Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
God wants me to drive a luxury car rather than that old Galaxy 500? I don’t think so.
“Lord, have mercy!”
That’s more like my style. That’s the best I can do. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that’s all I can do – to cry mercy. To plead for it as I would plead for another breath. And then to live in gratitude.
I know the very ugly truth about me; I am an horrible failure. I find myself, if I can articulate anything at all, admitting to God that I have failed him.
“Oh, God, have mercy on me! Please!”
I don’t deserve a Mercedes Benz – or a color TV – or to get a call from Dialing For Dollars.
I don’t deserve my next breath.
I do deserve the death penalty – God’s version. Eternal destruction. I earned it fair and square. And I know it.
I only want one thing – mercy. I need it. I will not survive without it. It’s my only hope.
Fortunately for me…for us…along comes this deity who lays claim to me as a son…a Father who sees me for the loser that I am and loves me in spite of it. Sometimes I don’t feel all that loved, but I know what I’ve been told – he loves me even then – when I’m not sure he does. His love for me doesn’t waver in response to my performance.
Honestly? He’s been good to me. In spite of me. He always has been. Right now, he’s good. I expect him to be so in the future. I don’t deserve it, but he keeps on showing up in my life. I don’t get it, but I do bask in it.
He’s a merciful God who sent me a merciful redeemer…one who pays the ransom for my liberty. He makes promises about the future that he can keep. I know he can keep them because my merciful savior sent by my merciful father was resurrected from the grave on my behalf (after he had paid for the debt I owed the Trinity).
Why would he do that? I don’t know, but I sure do appreciate it.
“Lord, have mercy on me!”
And he has – he does.
He shows up at just the right time – right now, when I need to be a grace and mercy and patience dispensing man myself… more than ever, he shows up again and reminds me that he nursed me back to health when I was on my spiritual deathbed. He came to serve me – imagine that. He served the unlovable – who am I not to serve the lovable?
The lesbians, arm and arm at Target. The thug with his pants drooping down over his butt. The crack whore selling her broken body for another hit. The greedy business man.
All the poor and powerless. My father wants to adopt them too.
And then there’s my wife. I’m guilty before the Father. She is innocent before me. Now when she is dependent on me to meet her every need? I remember that God tended to me in my sickness. Except mine was my own doing.
The God who created the universe with a word? That’s the one I spat at – right in his face. He repaid me with grace – with mercy.
I owed him more than I could pay. I was a bad guy – incapable of fixing my own problem with him, so he did it for me.
He loved me. He took pity on me.
“Oh, thank you Father. You didn’t give me what I deserved, but you were…you are…merciful. Praise you! I plead with you…empower me to dispense grace…ridiculous amounts of mercy. Scandalous grace. Strike down my desire to self-justify. Utterly destroy any desire on my part to condescend the poor and powerless except to kneel down to give them a hand and lead them to you, a merciful father.”