The Mercy Seat

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  ~ Hebrews 4:16

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The full flush of summer’s arrival slid over me with a humid embrace as I hurried across the driveway, toward the wild young Bottle Brush tree in our side yard, with its copious evergreen leaves and bright garnet bottle brush-like flowers spilling over the top.

Inside the spindly little tree was a carefully hewn twig bird nest, empty save for a single baby mockingbird. His sparse charcoal feathers and pointed, pale yellow beak were the only evidence it was actually a baby bird nestled amidst the twigs and mother bird feathers and bits of nature.

We watched the mommy bird make her nest, oohed and ahhed over the lone egg inside a few days later, and then counted how many times a day mommy mockingbird swooped in to feed her baby a beak full of insects. The mother mockingbird worked tirelessly during the day, zipping past our kitchen window and perching occasionally in our oak tree to rest and keep a watchful eye.

As I peeked in that June morning, I was shocked to find an empty nest. A cursory glance around, then down, brought a sodden heaviness to my heart. Just below the nest was a charcoal-feathered lump. The baby bird lay lifeless on the wood chips under the tree, and I wilted like the sun-soaked bottlebrush flower drooping against my shoulders.

I gently took care of the deceased bird and prepared to tell the boys about our hatchling’s demise, grumbling to God about the random loss of feathered life. About a month prior we lost our beloved lizard Tom, and the boys were still reeling from death’s unexpected hand in their lives.

I began the whining ‘why’s’, faith-flattening questions we finite creatures ask our infinite Creator.

“Why did this poor little bird have to die?”

“Why did this happen in our yard?”

“Why couldn’t everything just work out neat and painless and perfect, like in a Disney movie?”

The boys’ countenances dropped at the news, their hearts eventually pushing aside the hurt with curious questions. Then, a couple of weeks after the baby bird’s death, a young friend from church shared the heart-crunching news that her late 1st trimester pregnancy – a second baby she and her husband had been praying for – had miscarried. Again.

At my friend’s pain, my ‘why’s?’ to God followed like an emotional interrogation.

“Why did she have to miscarry?”

“Why don’t You carefully orchestrate it so that families who are a loving unit and prepared for a baby don’t have miscarriages and don’t struggle with infertility?”

“Why do some women have to go through so much hurt to have children?”

Amidst the questions and prayer and pondering, it hits me again how fully blessed we are with direct access to the Designer of the intricate human eye, to the Craftsman who shaped and stretched the giraffe’s neck perfectly to reach lofty leafy food, to speak with the Artist who painted the vibrant rainbow promise in the sky and molded us into His everything from the nothing of the ground.

This awesome God allows us to pour out our heart to Him while hiding inside His. We can climb on the mercy seat, asking for forgiveness and grace and cry out our whining whys.

Only because of Jesus and the Cross. 

“And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.” Exodus 25:22

Because God’s chosen people couldn’t view the mercy seat of pure gold covering God’s ark. The ark and the mercy seat were hidden from their view inside the Tabernacle; Instead, the Israelites relied on a High Priest to gain God’s mercy and grace in their stead, separated, until Jesus and the Cross.

Until the off-limits mercy seat was overwhelmed and undone by our High Priest Jesus, Who is merciful and faithful and sympathizes with our weaknesses and temptations and hurts.

Life will batter us like the wind that wraps and whips around our petite Bottle Brush tree, but God’s faithfulness is unchanging and His mercy and grace will hold us tight. During the whining why times, add praise to your petition, because we have direct access to God through the mercy seat of Jesus.

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