November 4, 2016

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Through God’s grace and mercy, hearts can be transformed

Patti LambAt the end of the summer, days before a new school year began, we encountered a three-story house flood.

“It’s raining from the ceiling!” my daughter exclaimed early one morning, as she ran upstairs from the basement.

The culprit turned out to be an upstairs toilet with a slow leak and a faulty flapper, which created three levels of disruption in our home.

The restoration company responded quickly, removing ceilings, carpet and drywall from the top story, through the living room, down to the basement concrete.

Our house was literally torn apart from top to bottom.

I know it’s all just “stuff,” but this incident caused quite the unrest in our home.

Unfortunately, we hired a contractor who repeatedly neglected to show up for work. When his crew did occasionally appear, they caused more damage to our house than the original flood, resulting in the need for even more reconstruction efforts.

One evening, after the contractor had duped us again, I sat on the floor looking up at a gaping hole in the ceiling, thinking to myself that this place was beyond repair. A home that my husband and both of our fathers had helped build with their own hands was in ruins. I thought maybe we should just knock it down and start over again.

I expressed these thoughts to a friend, who quickly came by to give me a pep talk.

“This is an opportunity to change things up, and to see the space in a whole new way,” she said.

She pulled out multiple paint samples and pictures of “inspiration rooms,” along with her notebook, full of sketches. She suggested moving the furniture around and lightening the paint to let the hand-stained wood take center stage. She provided many other tips to enliven the space.

She told me that I was starting with a blank slate, and encouraged me to see with “new eyes.”

“I know it’s a mess now, but have hope for the transformation,” she told me.

Three months after the flood, I sit writing this column in a home that finally has ceilings, walls and flooring again. I never thought a place so broken could be made whole—and beautiful—again.

It’s November, and this Holy Year of Mercy, as declared by Pope Francis, soon comes to an end. I wish it could be extended.

Many times throughout this Year of Mercy, I’ve been reminded that, with God’s grace, even the darkest hearts can become clean. With God’s mercy, hearts can be converted and God can bring forth beauty from anguish.

I have a lovely friend who has taught me more about mercy than I can articulate. She publicly forgave the murderer of her husband, and she prays daily for the conversion of the convicted man’s heart.

She has encouraged me to pray for those who have wandered from God’s love. Jen has reminded me that everyone is worthy of God’s love As Pope Francis says, we must “meet people where they are,” and help them make their way to God, whose arms are wide open. We must also forgive ourselves.

Despite mean-spirited occurrences happening around us, this Year of Mercy and some lovely friends have encouraged me to have “hope for the transformation,” which can only be found in Jesus Christ.

As Jen has shown me, it’s never foolish to endorse mercy and cling to hope, trusting that transformation and conversion will come—in God’s gracious time.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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