Anyways, the book is called A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. In his own words, “this book is the spiritual autobiography of a love rather than of the lovers.” It is the story of the relationship between Sheldon and his wife, Davy. How their inloveness begins, grows, and eventually is redeemed – unexpectedly through Davy’s early death.
It’s a moving story about two people who share love in a way that few would even attempt. But what is really interesting to me, and what’s been on my mind for a long time now, is the idea of a severe mercy. Essentially the idea that something has to die in order to be redeemed.
I first read this book a few years ago and it’s stuck with me since. Most notably in reference to God expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after they eat the fruit. I had a professor argue this is God working through severe mercies because He knows the only way to save His creation is to first kick us out of paradise. An initially harsh judgment ultimately drenched in love. A severe mercy.
Hmm. Could this really be the way that God works in our lives? My professor claimed that once sin entered the story this became the only way for a just and loving God to allow brokenness and darkness to coincide with grace and hope.
If you’re interested in how the severe mercy worked in Sheldon and Davy’s lives, you’ll have to read the book. It’s a worthy read, I promise. Meanwhile, think with me about how God has worked most prominently in your life. Could you label these times as severe mercies?
Through death, comes life. Through pain, comes joy. Through brokenness, comes redemption. Severe Mercies. God’s goodness coming to a hurting world.
And for those of you who enjoy a good quote, here are a couple applicable ones:
“This is what I’ve come to believe about change: it’s good, in the way that childbirth is good, and heartbreak is good, and failure is good. By that I mean that it’s incredibly painful, exponentially more so if you fight it, and also that is has the potential to open you up, to open life up, to deliver you right into the palm of God’s hand…when life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” -Shauna Niequist
“We’re not doubting that God will do the best for us, we’re wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” -CS Lewis