Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mercy Seat


I opened a Bible the other day to a random page and found myself near the end of 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament.  David is giving instructions to Solomon about building the temple.  The plans include “the room for the mercy seat.”  The phrase awakened a joy in my soul that there was such a place called a room for the mercy seat, and there arose in my spirit a longing to be in that room.

I am no Bible scholar, and my reaction was uncomplicated by specific knowledge of the meaning of this phrase.  The image in my mind was of a seat bathed in light.  If I sat on it, I would receive the mercy of God.  I would be filled with the basic goodness of the universe.  My spirit would be purified and mercy would spill over like a golden fountain, flowing wherever I had held judgment and condemnation, washing away everything that was born of fear, imbuing what had been dark with a light so brilliant that nothing was left in shadow.

My curiosity led me to an earlier description of the mercy seat in Exodus.  There, God is speaking to Moses, telling him to build the mercy seat of pure gold and to place it above the ark of the covenant, in the most sacred, inner room in the temple.  “There I will meet with you,” promises God.

Ah, just as I thought.  The mercy seat is the thin place where we encounter the divine (by whatever name we choose).  God does not meet with us on the seat of judgment, or the seat of vengeance.  There is no separation here, no hatred, no fear.  Only mercy, only love, only light.

I have held this image in my heart the last few days as I have struggled to forgive and release a situation that continues to churn in my spirit.  When I feel myself sucked back towards that whirlpool of anger and blame and fear, I picture myself on the mercy seat, opening my soul to God, asking for mercy for myself and for those against whom I harbor thoughts of separation and judgment.

The true gift of grace is that the line between giving and receiving it immediately disappears as soon as mercy is asked for or offered.  Mercy never flows only one direction, but washes over both the giver and the recipient.

Imagining myself on the golden seat of mercy is humbling.  God’s grace is so exquisite, the basic goodness of the universe so sublime, that my grievances simply melt away.  I am bewildered that I ever thought them important, worthy of my attention and energy.  What are they compared to the glorious freedom of forgiveness?

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.  –Lewis B. Smedes

related posts:  Righteous Unforgiveness; Forgiveness, the Final Frontier

40 comments:

  1. What an incredible image of love and forgiveness you have given to all of us in this beautiful, heartfelt, full-of-grace post, Galen! Oh, that "thin place where we encounter the divine" is where I know I long to be; may we all find our mercy seat.
    Blessings and love!

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    1. Martha, Yes, may we all indeed. Well said.

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  2. Forgiveness- sets us free- what a lovely post, your words are always truly a gift, for all.

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  3. You paint a lovely picture of this place of forgiveness. a place that we all should visit from time to time. God is always willing to listen and absolve us of our sins but first we must take the mercy seat. This post is a great reminder that I must take a seat more often!! Thanks for an inspiring post!! David

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  4. A lovely image to hold im my heart...our hearts. Thank you, Galen!

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  5. What a beautiful post. When someone opens their hearts to forgive that really creates the space for healing and transformation...

    "The true gift of grace is that the line between giving and receiving it immediately disappears as soon as mercy is asked for or offered. Mercy never flows only one direction, but washes over both the giver and the recipient."

    I completely agree.

    Wonderful post! Thanks for the great read.

    ~ blessings~

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  6. Absolutely Galen!

    I think when we are able to forgive, we reach that level of achievement where we can turn back and give ourselves a pat on the back. But yes, very few of us are really able to do that. :)

    Thanks for sharing.:)

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    1. Harleena, I admit I feel less like patting myself on the back than I do offering thanks. I think sometimes I have very little to do with forgiveness, other than getting my wounded ego out of the way to let the pure energy of the universe fill me up. Thanks for commenting.

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  7. Galen, I believe that "separation" and "forgiveness" can live in the same space. It is the "judgement" that must be released at the Mercy Seat. Beautiful post.

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    1. Suzanne, Hmm, I'd like to know more about your views. To me, forgiveness heals the mistaken perception of separation. Hope you will elaborate. Thanks for your comment.

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  8. I love it. Especially the transcending above one's feelings to the liberty of letting go. I like the idea of a golden seat with a shower of mercy.

    Hugs! Always a beautiful thought. Love you, Galen! The quote at the end is exquisite.

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    1. Vidya, That is a good quote, isn't it?! Thanks for your comment.

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  9. I so needed to read this today. I have been having two things pressing on my life lately and keep getting in the way of the hope filled, energetic conference SISTER GIANT I attended this past weekend.
    I am rather angry at a person who can not accept the election results and keeps spewing his/ her anger all over my Facebook page. I feel so strongly that I should have some great words to help him/her put this anger to rest. Let GO. I do not know why I feel so responsible to assist. He/she is addicted to this anger and I do not want this to be so and I care, but all I can do is keep letting it go all day long - each time it comes up.

    I have just finished reading a novel up for post on the 18th. It is a no holds barred tell all hard to put down read, that I think will be a best seller...the problem being I did not want to know all this awful stuff and violence going on in these big evangelical churches - even though it is fiction, I know many of the things are true....yikes! it is hard to get back to hope and joy. It has left me so concerned for others.

    It is a lovely image you have shared...I find myself thinking I would need to sit on that bench daily to release myself...we all have something we need that graceful lift from God to accept and let go - the phrase "enter into the suffering comes to mind" also

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    1. patricia, I hear you about the election. I think that is in part what inspired this post, and certainly the last one. And like you, I think a daily period on the mercy seat would do me a lot of good!

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  10. What a beautiful image and solace! It's not easy to open to mercy when we are embroiled in grievances. But, we're just human after all. The way we can still get drawn in does humble us, doesn't it? And, at the same time, it connects us to the humanity of all. You have so much courage to share your challenges as well as your glories!

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    1. Sandra, Yes, this human adventure is nothing if not humbling! Thanks for your kind words.

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  11. I love your images of the mercy seat. I find such an image comforting. Thank you for sharing what you found.

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    1. Tina, I'm glad the image is meaningful to you.

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  12. Very interesting post. You have sparked my interest. I am off to do a little reading.

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    1. Bonnie, Let me know what else you find out.

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  13. Oh Galen....this post was beyond sublime.....one can never write enough about mercy and God's grace. Thank you again.

    xo

    Jo

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    1. Jo, Thank you for the very kind words. Indeed, I think we could write about this every day.

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  14. Beautifully said my friend Galen!

    I heard this said, "why do you invite people in your minds that you wouldn't allow in your house?" God's grace is divine and his mercy everlasting. Mother Teresa has stated that forgiveness is an act of self love.

    The divine is in each one of us and to see with the eyes of LOVE is truly humbling and merciful....

    In love and in light,
    Nancy

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    1. That's an interesting quotation, Nancy. Seeing with the eyes of love is what I'm trying to do every day, some days with more success than others!

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  15. Interesting post, Galen. In your view, is mercy the same as forgiveness, or do they simply go hand in hand?

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    1. JJ, What a good question. I catch myself using them, as I did here, interchangeably, but they do seem to have different meanings. And I'm not sure why that term was used in the Bible. I'm going to do some more reading. Thanks for motivating me to look deeper.

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  16. Hi Galen,
    Thanks for sharing your visualization. Every spiritual tradition has valuable wisdom teachings and there have been many times I've had to remind myself of the Christian teaching that mercy triumphs over judgment. None of those times have been as trying as the situation I faced this summer. Then I made a decision to stop judging and forgive a family member who had abused an elder and wronged us all by stealing the legacy willed to us by that elder.I sat with my feelings and observed where they arose from for many days. Then one bright morning I recalled the significance of the mercy seat being positioned above the judgment seat. Only then was I able to feel anger melt and compassion arise. Only then was I able to stop judging and forgive.

    "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. –Lewis B. Smedes"


    Namaste,
    TiTi

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    1. TiTi, Thanks for sharing your story. It is so hard to release our judgment of someone who has hurt someone vulnerable, especially someone we love. I like your added image of the mercy seat above the judgment seat. I'm glad you like that quote, too.

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  17. great post, thank our Savior for his everlasting mercy...

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    1. What a wonderful concept--everlasting mercy.

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  18. Wow, Galen this was a powerful post. I needed to read this one. I love the thought of being on the mercy seat and speaking with my Savior. What a wonderful visualization.
    I find myself in the very same spot with one of my dearest family members. I am constantly having to ask forgiveness for moments of mistrust and judgement. I am so grateful that I can go to my Heavenly Father in prayer and seek his love and counsel. I know that I can walk with the Savior and rid myself of these thoughts when they come unbidened.
    Blessings!

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    1. LeAnn, Thank you for sharing your own image of the mercy seat.

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  19. I love this post. I want to sit in that seat and feel utter freedom from all I hold, total forgiveness! Thank you!

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    1. Jodi, I want to sit there, too! We'll sit on it together.

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  20. No one understood forgiveness better than David. After his terrible fall from grace, He was so grateful to be forgiven. It's funny that you should write about the mercy seat - because I often use the Empty Chair exercise for forgiveness. Of course, Clint Eastwood used a similar exercise at the Republican Convention for other purposes! :P

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    1. Corinne, Thanks for the reminder of that story. It is interesting that some of the most beloved and well known people in the Bible were also deeply flawed and far from perfect! Ha--loved the reference to Eastwood's performance. After that, he needed to be sitting in the mercy seat!

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