I recently found out that this was a “drinking” game. Funnily enough, the first time I played it was at a women’s Bible study, except you earned toothpicks instead of chugging alcohol. Let’s say I start off the game with a statement “I’ve never broken a bone.” Anyone playing who HAS broken a bone before must give me a toothpick. Then the next person gives their “I’ve never _________.” statement and anyone who has ever _________ will give that person a toothpick and so on and so forth until one person holds all the toothpicks. Technically that person is the winner, but winning isn’t the point of the game. It’s about having a hilarious time getting to know all your friends’ dirty little secrets.
Recently I came up with a twist on the game. It doesn’t involve toothpicks, yet it is more scandalous than drinking. Instead of giving someone a toothpick, you give someone……dun dun dun duunnnnn…. MERCY!!! And instead of doing this when someone declares what they *haven’t* done, you give it when there is something that they *have* done.
Let me explain.
Someone cuts you off in traffic. Your blood starts to boil. You may even consider cutting them off. But wait….it’s time for a rousing game of “I’ve never!” Here’s what you do. Think carefully. Can you say….I have never cut someone off. Ever. Or made any driving infractions. No Mistakes. Never taken a wrong turn. Never Fallen victim to a blind spot. You have? Okay here’s how you play. At that point, forget about drinking or toothpicks. Pull out a large helping of mercy and give it out.
You try calling your spouse/friend/cousin/daughter/sister/neighbor. And they don’t pick up the phone. In fact, they NEVER pick up the phone. UGH!!! Especially when you need them. Like NOW! Pick up. Pick up. Pick up. No. Nothing. So annoying!! Wait……right when you feel that temper tantrum kicking in (yes, that’s what I called it) it’s time to play “I’ve never_________” “I have never been unreachable when someone tried to call me. Ever. Never left my phone home. Never left the house without the charger. Never been on a call and not clicked over. Never been in the bathroom when the phone beckoned. Never not once.” Nope. Not likely. Okay, pull out some mercy. And give it up.
You get an email. And immediately you “hear” the persons tone. They are so rude! How could they “talk” to you like that! So disrespectful. But wait. Before you get ready to blast them back an email, or share this one with all of your friends….it’s time to play….”I’ve never!” Have you never had someone misunderstand your written word? Or taken something you emailed the wrong way? Because that has definitely happened to me. You see, I am a pretty straightforward person. I have to really try to add a “Bless your heart” here or there in emails, because I have learned that my “Get to the point” nature can come across as rude in writing. So much so that I was once kicked out of a Freecycle group (I kid you not) because of my “tone” in an email. If you are not familiar with Freecycle, it is a group where you can give away items, and even ask for items. Their one basic rule is that you can’t “ask” for an item until you have given something away. After giving a ton of items away, I decided to test the waters and post a “wanted” ad. The powers that be refused to post it because they said I had never given anything away. “That’s easy,” I thought, and I quickly emailed them all of the “evidence” I had of the items I had given away. They then accused me of “only giving away items so that I could get items.” Lord have mercy. These people are crazy. I tried to resolve it quickly though and just got to the point. I emailed quotes from their rules that showed I hadn’t broken protocol. Next thing I knew I was kicked out. When I asked why, they wrote that my “tone” was aggressive. I read and reread these emails, even had my husband read them and we could not figure out what “aggressive tone” they were talking about. So yeah. I guarantee that your intentions for an email have been misunderstood. You just may not know about it. Knowing this little tidbit from my life however, before you assign “tone” to an email, it’s time to give it up. Mercy.
You hear of how someone has been wronged. You hear all the sordid “details.” You are furious. How could that person do that to them? Don’t they know that such and such is wrong! Just plain wrong. That’s it. You are never talking to them again, and you are going to make sure everyone knows what a jerk they are for behaving so ungodly. But wait! This is the perfect time for “I’ve never!” It is amazing to me how popular the saying “There are two sides to every story” is, yet how quickly people are to dismiss this reality. And like wildfire rumors are spread. Assumptions are formed. Character maligned. All because we latch on to one side of the story. I used to be the first one in line to do this. Until, that is, God put me with a man who never did. I would tell him these atrocious stories that should have evoked the same outrage in him that I was feeling, and he would be slow to jump on board. He knew there was likely another side to the story. That attitude used to frustrate me to no end. Mercy. How could he extend mercy to someone so clearly in the wrong? Until it was me to whom he was extending mercy. Then I got it. It took me too many years, but I finally got it.
What is my point? We live in a world, where people get incredibly bent out of shape over the smallest offenses. And not only are these infractions not worth the anger they provoke, but they are also sins that we commit ourselves, regularly. Thoughtlessness, selfishness, pride, carelessness, laziness, distractability, forgetfulness. No one is immune to this list. And when we are the offenders? We want Mercy. We expect Mercy.
Ok fine. Not you. You don’t do those things, or at least not as bad as that other person. But let us remember the enormous debt that we all have accrued, illustrated best in the story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. We have all received an immeasurable amount of mercy. And to those who have been forgiven much, we must love much. This truth is emphasized beautifully in James 2:13