Lord, Hold Us in Your Mercy

The light spills through stained glass scenes from the life of Jesus, bouncing off the sanctuary floors and making the gold on the altar molten. The faint smell of incense still hangs in the air around us, though we attend the second mass of the morning.

We sit on Mary’s side of the sanctuary, where a statue of Our Mother stands behind us, hands oustretched with gentle welcome. Candles flicker in red glass votive holders.

My husband says, “She heals me.”

Father Tom is away on a mission, and our guest priest is a native of India. A small man with elegant hands, he preaches like a Baptist minister, urging us to repent, reminding us of our privilege. We know Christ, he says; we know Him. Of all generations we are among the most blessed; heed the Lenten call to transform, to renew, to repent and be born again.

The words of the ancient liturgy bathe me like water poured by loving hands. I know I am loved. I know, too, I am not worthy of this.

Lord, I am not worthy to receive You; but only say the word, and I shall be healed.

The bread and the wine mingle in my mouth, the body and blood of Christ.

There is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.

I think of the blood of mothers, about how no child is born without the shedding of blood.

On my knees, my toes feeling the chill of the mable floor even through the leather of my new black pumps; the solid back of the pew in front of me, under my folded hands. I think of all the harsh words I have written and read here, and in other blogs.

We sing a Lenten song, Lord, hold us in your mercy.

Hold us in your mercy
Mercy is made flesh among us
Hold us in your mercy
Lord of all the homeless pilgrims
Hold us in your mercy
Sent to bring the poor good news
Hold us in your mercy
You who shared the sinner’s table
Hold us in your mercy

The words of the song stay with me as we pass by Mary, her hands still lovingly outstretched, her head bowed–whether in deference or humility or invitation, I do not know. I light a candle for all the motherless children, and all the childless mothers, for everyone who needs a Mother.

In adoption we have so many roles, so many loyalties, so many conflicts and interests. We have two sets of parents, two families, and only one child. The adopted person so often feels that she cannot be whole; even when in relationship with both families, she may feel and even be torn. There’s the difficulty of trying to resolve so much that is so deeply held.

I’m reminded of a Bible verse that says that it’s good to grab onto one thing, without letting go of another.

And yet, we only have two hands.

To solve this dilemma of two things, a good parent raises aware children. A good parent shows the child, “There is this, and there is also this. Look here; see this one thing. Now look here, and see the other.” And then, as the child grows, the parent shows this other thing, and the next, and yet another, until the child learns that we have a vast universe of possibilities, and an even vaster array of human beings, all genetically unique, each impossibly wonderful and loved by the creator. This child becomes an adult who can choose because the adult has learned how to ponder, how to be discerning. In learning about many things and many choices, eventually the child comes to understand that not all choices are possible at the same time in the same place–maybe only one choice is possible, or two, or five. But all choices can’t be held at one time by one person. The choices are too many.

This is the way it is in adoption. We have in one hand the necessity of respect for the ancestors, among whom birth parents stand, whose children are given up or taken away. Even if they have committed the most heinous acts, and been convicted of crimes, gone to prison, killed a child, or killed themselves, we say that they are worthy of respect and honor, because they are the ancestor of the adopted person. I’m not sure about the worthy part, but I am sure that people say that we must hold respect for the ancestors in our hearts, and teach that respect, honor, and approbation to our children.

In the other hand we hold the broken heart and spirit of the orphan. We respect that person, too. We say he or she has the right to choose relationship, or no relationship. We say that he or she has the right to be helped to heal, and to stand on his or her own two feet, and to be whole, even at the expense of birth or adoptive parents. The adopted person has that right.

With our two hands full, I wonder, do we have room for the adoptive parent? Do we have to put down the birth parent, or the adopted person, in order to pick up our respect for the adoptive parent? And if we pick up the claim or interest or love of the adoptive parent, must we abandon that of the birth parent, or the adopted person?

We only have two hands.

But God, He’s got the whole world in his hands, He’s got the whole wide world, in His hands.

Lord, hold us in your mercy.

When I get up from my knees, I know that God is big enough to hold us all, in His mercy.

God our mother, God our father, holding us in their mercy.

The candle sputters and flickers a little as I light it. I drop a coin into the box to pay for more candles; God knows I will need them as I pray week after week for all who need the gentling of a Mother.

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