I begin this story, realizing that it may, at first, seen alarming and not the sort of thing you would expect to find in a place like this. Yet it seems important to me that I begin from where I am. If I am scared, I must begin from the place of my fear. If I feel alone, then I begin from the point of my isolation. If I am despairing, I must begin from the center of my hopelessness. I cannot begin from a place where I am not.
My story starts with me finding myself in a little boat in the middle of the ocean. It is a tiny boat really and I am alone in it. My boat has no motor or sail; it does not even have oars. It is night time. When last there was light, I could see no land nor were there any other boats in sight in this part of the sea.
And now, a storm has arisen. The overcast sky leaves me without stars or moon to guide me and my only light is the occasional flash of lightening. The wind is gusting and the waves are growing. My little boat is rocking uncontrollably on the rough waters of the sea.
Do not ask how I came to be in this tiny boat in the middle of the ocean. I do not really know. All I know is that this is where I am now.
Between the sharp slivers of rain and the salty spray, I find myself growing cold and wet with no way to protect myself. The boat lists to one side as a huge wave pounds against it, almost capsizing my tiny vessel. I am frightened - no, I am terrified. I hear my heart pounding and the wind seems to have pulled the air from my lungs so that I can hardly breathe. My body trembles with cold and fear. I am alone.
"How could I have allowed this to happen to me?" I moan to myself. "Surely I must have done many things wrong to end up in such a predicament. I must be a fool." The despair in these words to myself turn to anger. "I am indeed a fool and I deserve to die! And surely I will out here in the ocean all alone."
Then, a Voice speaks.
"My frightened one," it says. "Don't be scared. I am here with you."
The Voice startles and confuses me. I do not recognize the Voice nor can I tell where it is coming from. I cannot see anyone. Could there be another boat out here?
"Who are you?" I hear myself croak, my voice hardly more than a whisper. "I cannot see anyone or anything."
"I am the One who made the earth and the sea and all that is in them," the Voice replied. "Don't be afraid. I'm here with you."
I look about, hoping to see a light in the inky darkness but there is none. I feel around with my hands. There is no one in the boat with me.
"How can I not be afraid?" I think to myself. "I am alone in a boat in the middle of the ocean. A terrible storm is surging around me and I haven't even got an oar! How can He tell me not to be afraid?"
As though hearing my thoughts, the Voice begins again.
"My frightened one. Fear not. Close your eyes and rest. For what you think is your boat is not really a boat at all. It is my hand. Trust me. I am holding you and you are safe."
As crazy as this sounds, I begin to feel it. What before felt like cold, damp wood beneath me begins feeling more like a soft, warm hand - a very large and gentle hand in which I begin to rest...I feel my heart slow down for the first time in hours and my breathing comes naturally once more.
I have almost drifted off to sleep and am startled back into wakefulness by a sharp bolt of lightening and a booming clap of thunder. I still feel His hand beneath me but the fear returns.
"How long can He hold me like this?" I wonder. "How long will He hold me and protect me? Perhaps He will grow tired and drop me in the sea - where I deserve to be. I am such a fool!"
Again, as though hearing my thoughts, the Voice speaks.
"Remember, my dear frightened one," it begins. "This is my sea, my ocean. I am the One who made it. My ocean is not a bad ocean. No, it is vast and wondrous beyond your imagining. It has no beginning and it has no end."
As I ponder these words, I find myself unable to comprehend how this ocean could be anything but terrible. Though resting in the hand, I still hear and feel its roaring and raging about me.
"If the ocean is not bad," I ask, becoming more accustomed to speaking into the darkness, "why does it rage at me so? Why can it not be a calm and tranquil sea upon which my boat can glide?"
Already, though resting in the hand, I have begun to doubt the part about my boat not really being a boat at all. I keep thinking that I will soon wake up and discover that the hand was just a dream and I am still alone in a cold, wet boat in the middle of the ocean.
"It is important for you to know how powerful my ocean is," the Voice replies. "If you did not know this, you might think that you were stronger than it is. You might think that you could create oars and sails and motors to conquer it and set your own direction in the sea."
"So it is no accident that I have no oars?!" I cry out without thinking. Again, I am wondering if I dare to truly trust this One who says He holds me. Why would He not want me to have at least a couple of oars, if not a sail or a motor?
"I think you want me out here without any oars because You plan to leave me here," I say accusingly. "I think You are just trying to win my trust and then You will remind me of how bad and stupid I am. And then You will leave," I conclude breathlessly.
"You really do not know where you are, do you?" the Voice asks gently. He waits, allowing His question to have its impact.
"This ocean," the Voice begins again. "This ocean is the ocean of My Mercy. It is vast, without beginning or end. It is more powerful than anything you have yet imagined, more powerful than anything you have done or could ever do. You can do no wrong that it cannot forgive, you can have no disease that it cannot heal."
Stunned, I consider these words. Something inside of me wants so much for this to be true. Could it be?
"How did I come to be here?" I ask Him. "I don't remember what I did to get here - but I figured it must have been something pretty bad for me to end up in such an awful place." I speak honestly, hoping He is not offended that I had considered His ocean an awful place.
"You have always been here," the Voice replies, using a softer tone. "You have always been here, in My hand, floating in the ocean of My Mercy."
He seems a bit sad as He continues, "You did not understand and so you became frightened and fought My gift to you. I have been trying to speak to you, to tell you not to be afraid. It was only today that at last you heard Me."
Gift? I look around. I have been so absorbed in what the Voice was saying that I have not noticed that the sea has stopped its roaring and the wind is but a gentle breeze. The darkness too no longer looks so very dark and the thunder and lightening have stopped.
Puzzled, I turn to Him, perceiving Him in the light growing on the horizon, "You made the ocean roar and rage and storm so that I would know its power. And now You have made it calm. I do not understand."
He waits before responding, His light glowing softly upon His ocean. "It was your storm that roared and raged, not mine. It was the storm of your doubt and anger and pain that overcame you with fear. It was only when you could let go of your storm and rest in Me that you were ready for the gentle power of My Mercy."
"Come," He says. "rest in My Mercy. You are safe now. You will always be safe and I will never let you go..."
(Comments and contributions for this Week of Mercy may be e-mailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org)