When thinking of God’s mercy, we often think of the ways in which He lifts us out of situations, heals the sick, heals wounds within families, answers our prayers and any number of other ways in which God reveals to us His infinite love and mercy. We can easily overlook or forget the times when God shows His mercy by making us aware of our smallness of self and our need for humility. It may not seem like mercy at the time, but its one of the most merciful of actions.
Catholic motivational speaker, Matthew Kelly, has focused a great deal of energy on spreading the very simple, but fundamental, principle of being ‘The Best Version of Yourself‘. The idea behind this is that everything we do and every choice we make gives us an opportunity to become the *best* version of ourself. Kelly has spent years writing and speaking about the idea of living life with passion and purpose. Ultimately, this is what God wants of us. He wants us to be the *best* version of ourselves.
I recently learned of a beautiful story of how Michelangelo came to carve the beautiful, David, out of a block of marble in Florence. The carving on another statue had begun out of this block and it was ceased for some time. In August of 1501, Michelangelo was commissioned to continue the carving. Two years later, the statue was complete and David had been born. When asked about the statue, Michelangelo noted that he had not carved David, but that God had helped him chip away the excess stone in the block of marble so that David could be revealed – but that he had always been present inside the stone.
Pope Benedict XVI recently noted this beautiful idea that the *best* version of ourselves exists inside each and every one of us, and it is for us to reveal by way of our choices and also with the assistance of the grace of God.
A sweet friend noted the other day that as she gets closer to Christ she sees more and more flaws within herself and thought, “Oh no, I’m getting worse!”. It dawned on me at that moment that its not that we are ‘getting’ worse, but we are becoming more and more aware of ourselves and our choices. As that happens, we begin to look at ourselves with greater discernment and are aware of when we fail to live up to being the *best* versions of ourselves.
The same day I had this conversation with my friend, I had been out running in the morning. There was an unexpected detour on the trail on which I like to run as they were working to remove a very large tree that had become weakened and, hence, a danger to those on the trail. As I came upon the barriers blocking the trail, there was a woman standing next to them ensuring that no one passed through the barriers given the obvious danger.
This was not in my plans for the day and I was irritated in spite of the fact that the detour would not add or shorten my run in any way. I asked the women – somewhat stupidly – if we were unable to pass. She said ‘No, you’ll have to take the detour.’
In my impulsiveness, I noted – not loudly, but I’m sure loud enough that she could hear, ‘Well, that’s just a pain in the a**.’
Within seconds, I received my big swipe up the side of the head from God as He had me contemplate what I had just done. This woman had been hired to stand by the barrier all day and ensure that people like me didn’t pass through it – for their own safety. Rather than appreciate the efforts that the foundation that manages the trail had gone to in order to ensure the safety of those who utilized the trail on a regular basis, as well as their safety while they underwent the removal of the tree, I chose to be a pain in the a** about it.
I immediately felt myself shrink to a version of myself that was only about a 1/2 inch high. I had completely overlooked everything good in the choices and chose, instead, to give in to my own smallness and be petty about the minor inconvenience on my life. In addition to overlooking the obvious respect for safety, I chose to overlook the fact that my job gives me the flexibility to go for a morning run, that my health is such that I can go for a morning run, that I can afford shoes and other attire to go for a morning run, that I was wearing a very lovely iPod Nano on my wrist and listening to music and tracking my run with Nike+ software – all of it. I chose petty selfishness instead. It was a pretty solid smack up the side of the head.
It was, however, an act of mercy on the part of God. How can I become the *best* version of myself if I walk through life with a veil between my actions and my conscience? Those moments which God raises to our conscience the impact of our choices on others is an act of mercy in which He tells us, ‘Nope… that’s not the beautiful you that exists inside.’ He, at those times, is acting like Michelangelo in providing us with the grace to chip away at the stone that keeps our *best* version of ourselves hidden from the world.