This winter, thus far I have been a mess of emotions. Strong feelings have been coming over me one after another after another. Simultaneously, I have been discouraged and worn down by the marathon that life can be. I have been encouraged. I have been pressured, often overwhelmed. I have been thankful for all of the people that have come around us to support us. I have felt distracted and unable to be present with those I care about. I have been thankful for the time my friends and family have spent with me and dedicated to me. Simultaneously I feel happy, thankful, overwhelmed, crushed, broken, significant, loved, insignificant, and hopeful. And in the midst of it, sometimes, I feel peace.
And over and over again, I have asked, “What is wrong with me? Why do I feel all of this? What am I feeling?”
Throughout this process I have been thinking that when work is at such and such a spot, this pressure will subside. For the last month or two, I have been hoping for the pain to end so that the peace will settle into my life.
My biggest frustration over the last few months has been that there are so many feelings rushing through me all of the time. Am I happy or sad? I am both. Am I hopeful or hopeless? Both. Am I excited or exhausted? Both. Am I thankful or do I want more? Both. I seem to be unable to understand my own self right now.
This morning I have been reading about the last hours of Jesus’ life, while he was pinned to a cross, and I have begun to feel at peace.
In the last hours of Jesus’ life, he made a few statements, but they do not fit seem to fit together. A few hours before dying, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) He hurt. He still had compassion, but the pain of being killed by his own created image bearers must have been unbearable.
Then a man dying alongside Jesus asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered his kingdom. Jesus responded, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Hope screamed from Jesus’ broken body as he cried out that this was not the end. This was a brutal death which would birth a beautiful beginning. I the midst of the pain, Jesus exclaimed peace.
Then Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) All of the peace was gone. It was bled out of him. And then Jesus, “calling out with a loud voice, said, “father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) And he died.
I’m not dying. But in the midst of all of these competing emotions, Jesus’ final hours give me solace to know that pain and peace can live in the same body at the same time. On one hand Jesus screamed at his father because of the pain, and on the other hand committed his spirit. On one hand he asked his father to forgive a violent crowd, and on the other promised hope for the ages to another man slowly suffocating to death.
I have been waiting for the pain to subside for the peace to take over. Jesus seems to feel all of them simultaneously. I think that this is what real peace is. Peace is not just the relief that comes after the pain, but it is the seed of hope that is planted in the midst of it. The kingdom is here in the middle of the pain. It does not mean that the pain is gone, but it means that because of an amazing God, there is hope in the middle of the pain, and when the pain comes to an end, the hope does not have to.
I still feel happy, thankful, overwhelmed, crushed, broken, significant, loved, insignificant, and hopeful. And now peaceful and hopeful too.