Looping into Peace

My father was this first to point it out to me, following a conversation in which he kept pausing to prompt me to finish his sentences. Feigning curiosity, he asked “Brian, do you understand how you keep on finishing my sentences for me?” When I shrugged my shoulders, he was more specific, “Do you understand just how far ahead of us you are?”

I was somewhat more conscious of it during a congregational meeting. We were to vote on a capital campaign, and I opened my mind to the community, trying to ensure that all viewpoints were considered and honored. Towards the end of the discussion, I took the microphone and asked a question. The rest of the congregation stared in confusion. Finally, one of the elders offered “Could you repeat that for us?” I tried again, with the same result. The elder said, “I’m sorry, I still didn’t catch that.” Finally I had this strange sense of my mind slowing down to come into synchronization with everyone else, asked my question one more time, and received an answer.

Most of these moments come to me in dreams. The first found me on an ancient battlefield, following a commander as he skirmished with exhausted warriors. Dispatching the last, he began trotting across the field, seeking a bow. Taking one up, he notched an arrow and fired it into the sky. My will followed the flight, bound to the arrowhead, seeking a target, finally rushing downwards to pierce the forehead of the enemy commander.

But there have been so many others. As I entered Barnes and Noble one afternoon, a man accosted me “You know the pope is looking for someone?” After John Paul II died on Good Friday, I played a requiem for him at work on Monday. During the Choral of Beethoven’s Ninth, I had a clear impression of Karol standing in the quarry in Warsaw just after WWII, and sent him the message “Come find me.”

Or of the woman that I identified with the Magdalene, one night reaching into her left fallopian tube and sending a gift way back to the foundation of her relationship with Christ, satisfying her deeply-held desire.

I do not know how to characterize this process. To be loved is to give strength to our desires, producing both sublime relation and corrupted entanglement. The will of Christ seeks to re-enter the world, and must clarify its manifestations. Can anyone claim to be the focus of that timeless power, or are we all just points of contact used to render more efficacious its engagement with us?

These are the moments most precious to me: when I lose sight of myself, and feel rising above the pain of tomorrow that future of love that calls back to steel our resolve and stimulate our hopes. It is to no longer be an “I”, but an “us” that blossoms from isolation into limitless possibility, all fears vanquished, all needs met, all questions answered. In those moments, all that I know is that simply to be a conduit of that realization is to receive a gift beyond any justification. I cease my restless dancing to bask in peace.

Folding into Sorrow

It some ways, it is getting easier. When the weight settles during the Agnus Dei, I’ve decided to simply go with it. With “takes away the sins of the world,” I raise my hands to my shoulders and push it away into the void. And with “grant us peace,” I motion for the powers to descend from heaven into the space prepared for them. I know that the gestures must seem odd to those around me, but at least I’m not weeping any more.

Still, there are these irrational and inexplicable waves of sorrow in response to the elements of the Easter story. It’s not the crucifixion that causes my throat to clench and my chest to lock against grief. Rather it’s in the middle of this verse from In Christ Alone, which I’ve been looping on the car stereo:

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me

It’s in the declaration of victory that sorrow overwhelms me, accompanied by a sneering voice in the back of my head.

Having gained a certain sense of control over the experience, I am now able to stand back and analyze it. It’s not in the past that the grief lay, not on the Cross. It’s in the future.

And with that realization come to mind those mysterious promises. Of the Law [NIV Matt. 5:18], Jesus says (emphasis added):

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Only to announce the New Covenant in the Last Supper.

Of the End of the Age, Jesus promises [NIV Matt. 24:34] (emphasis added):

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

And on the cross to the repentant thief [NIV Luke 23:43]:

Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.

Finally surrendering life with [NIV John 19:30]:

It is finished.

In Tyranny Vanquished by Love, I explain that the dimming of the sun on Good Friday was not an eclipse, it was the sun pouring its power into the Savior. What was that power used for? The only way to reconcile these statements above with the iniquity of modern human existence is that Jesus was unbound from time. The power he was granted was guided into the future by his mercy and love, seeking relentlessly for an opportunity to realize the kingdom of peace.

So Easter was not two days later to him as it was to his followers. Rather, as Peter suggests [NIV 2 Peter 3:8-9]:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

So now I understand: the reason that I feel so much grief in the Resurrection is because we are at the turning point in his journey. The wall of pain stands right in front of us. The final resistance of sin, having consumed all the available resources, is flagging. It is ours to walk the narrow path, to pierce that veil with love, and bring him home to us.

And then send him back to rise from the grave and celebrate love’s victory with his dearest friends.