04 October 2019

Belligerent Peace

Sometimes I think we cling so tightly to our problems that even God, if He were so inclined, couldn't pry them out from between our fingers. We look at what we're going through and spin identities defined by such experiences. Lost someone we loved. Work too hard and too long for too little reward. Not able to get along with the boss. Facing serious health issues. Constantly under financial stress and barely making ends meet. Dreams have not and will never come true. Traumatized by past experiences. Facing anxiety and depression and fear. We've been offended. Hurt by people who should have done better. Ostracized. Unloved when we ought to have been loved.

We experience hard things in life and these hard things shape us. But sometimes we continue to allow them to mold us and bend us more than they truly have a right to, and end up bent into a bitter mockery of what we could have been. Instead of seeing ourselves as persons separate from the crises we handle, we look at ourselves through a lens of trauma, a lens which gradually shrinks and distorts our very selves.

I suspect that when we cling so tightly to the experiences that we have decided to form into identities, God isn't actually inclined to attempt to pry them out of our fingers. Perhaps that's a better description of the situation. It's not that he couldn't force us to let go, it's that He made us free. Free to embrace the thing that wounds us, if we so desire.

But what if we chose not to? What if, instead of holding onto my hurt, I loosened my grip enough to start clinging on to the possibility of peace that isn't dependent on my circumstances? What if we realized that even if nothing about our pasts or our presents changes...even if nothing changes in the relationships that bring the most pain...we have not lost the freedom to see our own selves through lenses that are not warped by hurt and disappointed expectations. What if that was one of the keys to growing up and growing old without growing bitter?

We make the choice to cling desperately to our deepest hurts, like a toddler who is determined to keep hold of the scissors or pencil or whatever random and dangerous object is currently within his clutches. We scream and flail and demand that those around us see us through the lens of pain that we use when we look at ourselves. But what if we didn't? What if we let go, ran to the Father and confessed that we don't want to see ourselves this way anymore. That we don't want to live forever under the shadow of broken relationships, disappointed dreams, and frustrated lives. That we want to be able to walk into each day with the peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace that defies comprehension...that makes no sense given the reality of the situation...the peace that looks evil and brokenness in the face, puts up its fists, and says, "Try me."

We know this belligerent peace exists. But do we trust that it does enough to loosen our hold on a sharp object?
Kristina said...

YES! See ourselves as God created us to be! Love it. We are not the problems we face.

Marisa said...

I enjoyed to read this post.:)

Elizabeth said...

I need to contemplate this. A few things come to mind that I've made the decision to not complain/gossip about at the moment. Even though it helps to have our feelings validated by other people, I want it to be between me and God at this point. I want His brand of comfort. I want to move on with freedom in Christ, not some kind of worldly self-sufficiency.

AnneMarie said...

I love the phrase you use, "belligerent peace." This is so beautiful, and so true. My associate pastor just preached about a similar topic the other week at Mass, so your post is timely! There have been countless times in my life when I've fallen into the trap of holding tightly onto certain painful experiences as part of my identity. Going through some counseling last year was definitely helpful for me!

Whenever other people (myself included) have tried to justify feeling bitter for years because "it's not my fault these bad things have happened to me, and I'm only human so OF COURSE I'll act like this," I often think of St. Paul. I love the epistles of St. Paul in the New Testament, and I love how much the peace and joy of Christ is present in them. And when I think about all of the sufferings that he was enduring while writing those letters (including imprisonment) I realize that I don't need to become bitter due to my circumstances, but that I-like Paul-can embrace the freedom and joy of Christ.