By: Gabriela Yareliz
I just finished what is probably one of the best books I have read in years: Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson.
Attorney Stevenson’s non-fiction account of many of the cases he took on to save people from execution on death row are haunting, memorable– and pretty much each story will fill your eyes with tears. I spent several blurry-visioned hours on the train reading this book. So many tears. Some were happy tears; others were sad tears. Some were just my-soul-is-moved-and-I-feel-so-broken tears.
Stevenson highlights our system, society and government’s failure; the lack of racial and economic equality; and the consequences we set in motion and disasters we perpetuate when we forget that justice and redemption hold hands.
My favorite part of the book was part of his own reflection that I really identified with, which reads: “I understood that I don’t do what I do because it’s required or necessary or important. I don’t do it because I have no choice. I do what I do because I am broken, too.” Just Mercy, Stevenson, pg. 289.
Stevenson quotes Thomas Merton saying, “Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would have never chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.” Id.
What will you choose to do with your brokenness? Who will you choose to reach? Will you hide in anger, fear and distance?
I pray to God that I can use my brokenness to help others. “Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument,” Reinhold Niebuhr said.
And when things get overwhelming and the world’s tragedies break me, it will be okay, because He (God) says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Rosa Parks once told Bryan Stevenson that to do the type of service work he does, he will get “tired, tired, tired,” and he needs to be “brave, brave, brave.” Id. at 293.
Stevenson wrote, “The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent–” Id. at 294.
I have been a recipient of mercy. In fact, we all have. I want to give mercy. I want to be brave. The world’s pain and injustices have already made me tired, so I hope that means I am well on my way.