This past Sunday, Doug kept Mercy with us for the first half of the worship service. In L.A. I almost always kept the kiddos with me for the singing part of our service. We met in a school cafeteria and our worship gatherings had an informality to them that allowed for our younger members to sing and dance and move around in the back without any of the glaring and shushing that is more common in a lot of congregations.
I think back to how our pastor in Portland would always be quick to respond when a baby would squawk or a toddler would squeal: “Oh, how God delights in the sounds of his children”, he would say, or something to that affect. I was not a parent while a member of that church so I never fully appreciated the significance of that affirmation; that valuing of what many would dismiss as interruption or intrusion. But now as a parent, I realize that feeling like my children have a place at the table, so to speak, in the corporate worship life of the church, matters. So it is important to us that Mercy be given the space to sing and dance a little as she learns to worship with our new church family.
Because I would be participating in the healing prayer time during the service yesterday, we were seated pretty close to the front. And every time a scripture was read or a song was sung which included the word “mercy”, Mercy would almost jump out of her skin with excitement. She would jump around to get our attention or practically fall off of Doug’s lap and exclaim: “THEY SAID MERCY!!!” And every time we responded to her with our own excitement.
At some point in the service, Doug took Mercy back to the nursery to play with Grammy and her brothers. After Doug got back and we were sitting there the two of us, we once again heard the word “mercy” sung. I turned to him with big eyes and a bigger smile, imitating my daughter: “They said MERCY!” Doug smiled back, and I realized that we have given Mercy a gift in choosing her name. The mercy of God is something so incomparably beautiful and good and yet for so many years I sat through the reading and singing of that word with minimal reaction. Today I cannot, because my daughter cannot, and she has trained me to marvel at the word. So I guess the gift is mine as well.