Way down south, in the land of cotton, where I was born, there are Baptists, Southern Baptists, to be exact. And they raised me to believe that if I would someday accept the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour (“personal,” as in “made just for me,” I suppose), then surely goodness and mercy would follow me all the days of my life. These Baptists (who were true Christians in that they tried to love the LORD with all their hearts and their neighbor as themselves) did all in their power to make my life free of pain, heartache and worry. I came to equate this carefree state of childhood with the promised “goodness and mercy.”
When I turned 23, Mark Twain whispered in my ear and told me that God was actually an old man, a judge seated up on high, way up there above his creation, looking down in anger. He said, “This God neglects his children (in my own hazy version of Baptist theology, all men were God’s children) and then, when they die, consigns multitudes of them to a burning hell.”
I looked around me at the misery and turmoil on the face of the earth (as well as the mess my life had become, thanks to me) and concluded that the Baptists were wrong, probably because they hadn’t read Mark Twain And so, for the next thirty years, I followed my heart; up one blind alley and down another. I imagined that mercy was an overrated commodity, not worth seeking, and that goodness must surely be a thing that one could find by oneself, if one looked hard enough.
Goodness, however, turned out to be extremely elusive, and though I thought I had found it more than once, I never did. I did find out that the verse in Jeremiah about the heart being deceitful above all things was quite true.
And finally, though I wasn’t looking for it, I found mercy. Actually, to be 100% accurate, mercy found me. Mercy came to me in the form of my friend Frank Dalton. He befriended me, and talked Bible and belief with me and even when I said something outrageous, simply smiled and sometimes replied “Yes, but don’t you think…?” which he followed with a suggestion that would cause me to reflect upon the things I thought I believed.
Mercy brought me to Antioch Church in autumn of 2000, and drew me in to the family of God as one newly born, where goodness and mercy were modeled for me by precious saints of God. That I haven't always exhibited these attributes should in no way reflect badly upon them.
Now that I think of it, perhaps the Baptists I grew up among had been too busy administering goodness and mercy, not only to their family, but to all within their circle of influence, to think or care about what Mark Twain said.
Now I am here today, at this stage of the journey God has ordained for me, his goodness and mercy having been poured out on me every step of the way. Surely they will follow me all the days of my life.
And I will dwell in His house.