The Quality of Mercy

One minute it's a perfectly normal lesson.  We're playing a memory game with Music Symbol Cards, and the father is unable to let his daughter miss a move.  She is momentarily stumped on the Treble Clef, and he quips quietly, "Oh, you'll get into trouble for sure if you can't remember that one. Trouble."

"Treble clef," she says sheepishly.  Then, askance, "Daaaad."

"Sorry," he says, affably chastised.

She is nervous about the rules of this game: I call it Foursquare, and it works a little like the game my mom used to play with us in restaurants while waiting our food.  You draw a grid of dots and connect them into boxes; the one who completes the box gets to claim it. Here, the one who turns over the fourth card in a square block gets to keep all four.  Her eyes are glued to the cards, her little mind intent on keeping as many as possible for herself.

But then something changes.  First, she accuses me of letting her win.  I explain that we are far enough into the game that there's no way for me to avoid turning over a third card; her only crime is getting them right over and over.  "It's okay," I say.  "It's just a game."

She hesitates before turning over another third card instead of completing the waiting square.  She feigns innocence; her father gives life to her thoughts.  "You're having mercy on your teacher," he says.  "That's okay."

I graciously accept the hand: "It's nice of you to think of my feelings.  But really, it's okay for you to win.  You know all the cards.  You're doing great!"  Yet still, before each move, she pauses, smiles sweetly.  "I'll have mercy."  There is no guilt or coercion in her manner, only a heart much bigger than her small body can contain.

Her father watches, proud, and I wonder just what he has gone through to raise a child like this -- a child who chooses mercy over personal gain, who is sensitive to others' feelings and wants to encourage me more than she wants to win.  I imagine the lessons he has taught, painful and enjoyable, to this end.  How has he helped her to see that justice is a bitter victory, and that truly, mercy conquers all -- so that, unprompted, she wants to extend this grace to those around her?  What a blessing he has given to her, to me, to all of us!

Yes, dear one, please, have mercy.  Have mercy, as God has mercy, on me.