Splat. The freshly grilled, heavily marinated pork loin landed on the floor, missing my shoe by a couple inches. Not even “splat!” with an exclamation mark; just a plain, unremarkable plop. But the landing strip of the loin’s brief flight was the den carpet.
The five-second rule does not apply to cream-colored carpet. Although I scooped up the fallen loin instantly, the carpet just under the light switch now had the appearance of a tragic road kill. Not only the color of dark rust, but a marinade odor that caused me to instantly lose my appetite for the new grilling recipe that had such potential for success until a moment ago.
Did I mention the carpet is cream-colored? And 99% of it remains so.
I was clearly and totally to blame. The loin did not jump; I dropped it. I was not texting while walking, but I should have been more careful. Rounding the corner my attention wandered for a fraction. Splat.
A quick rinse under warm water restored the loin, now lightly marinated instead of generously coated. But the den carpet. I sat at the dinner table, the stain etched into my vision. The family conversation by-passed my sullen, silent presence. My wife had shrugged it off, “Stuff happens, Baby. Don’t worry about it.” My son, who’d been upstairs, didn’t notice. “Great loin, Dad! Could use a little more marinade, though.” The dog rejoiced at my spillage. I was the only family member who was not happy. With an exclamation mark.
Only one way to deal with this. Mercy. I’d prefer every other way. I’d so much rather win approval and admiration through my solving things, because I’m pretty good at that. Or by making it someone else’s fault; I’m super-good at that. Mercy was the only way I was going to get over this mess, which the rest of the family had already accomplished. Me having mercy on me—that’s a challenge.
What I need to do is so obvious: forgive myself, apply grace to my own life, admit that I too am a sinner (and a spiller), and set it aside. See—I’ve managed to turn mercy into another project for me to accomplish. I can’t do mercy, only accept it. That’s the hardest part—you get mercy by receiving it, not by accomplishing it.
I’m still working on this. Or not working on it, just letting it happen. Meanwhile, if you want to have mercy on me about anything, drop by for lunch. We’ll have leftover pork loin sandwiches. If you don’t mind a little carpet fiber around the edges.
*Those of you who’ve read Anne Lamott’s Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy will recognize the source of my thoughts. If I borrowed them too directly, I hope she’ll have mercy.
Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. He will retire in mid November after 32 years of faith-shaping ministry at Pleasant Hill. Please send comments on the latest “Fry on Friday” post to Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org.