Last year I got to share my thoughts of peace and beauty during Semana Santa (Holy Week) as I spent it in the Corn Islands. This year the focus was also the pursuit of peace and beauty, but in a much different climate! We headed up to the Nicaraguan mountains and rainforest. It was windy, cloudy, and rainy every night. I had on all of the layers I could possibly find and could usually be found curled under a blanket or two. We stayed at an ecolodge coffee farm. Only our group and 3 other people were there. The only electricity came by way of solar panels and was strictly used for lighting. It was inaccessible except by 4×4. There were a few hammocks, lots of comfy chairs, and miles of trees. The peace that I was seeking (and that I found) this year was very different than it was last year.
This year, I sought to find peace in the midst of mess. Peace with who I am. Peace with what I am doing and with how I am doing. Peace with others. Peace in chaos. Restoring peace. Grasping onto God’s promise of peace. Allowing peace to reign.
Imagine perching on the lodge’s porch, watching toucans, butterflies, hummingbirds, and parakeets, then the sunset, then the fireflies, then the stars. Or nestling into a perch on a high hill amongst the wildflowers, gazing upon the coffee and banana fields with the wind blowing through your hair and the warm sun on your face. How can one not feel peaceful in those? But I didn’t. So, I set out to discover why not.
What I found was: it’s not about the place. So, I thought about the moments from the week where I did feel most peaceful. One of those moments was sharing a hammock with one of the loveliest people I know who I also have the privilege of calling “friend.” I could rest in the fact that I am well-loved, known, prayed for, and invited into friendship exactly as I am. This is community.
Here are some words that help highlight how vital this community is (from “Community: God’s Design for Growth“)
“The practice of Christian community, quite simply, makes the gospel a lived reality. It embodies a specific, personal way of life together in Christ. It strengthens us to live the life to which we are called; it conveys God’s life and power to the world at large. And it is necessary.”
“One of the most important ways the community helps us is by embodying Christ’s continuing presence on earth.”
SO good, right?!
However, this general lack of peace led me to feeling guilty. Easter is the biggest holiday of the year for Christians. We are meant to sing for joy that our God reigns, that our King lives. And I didn’t feel very peaceful, let alone celebratory, even though I believe these things with all my heart. However, someone shared a profound insight with me about this today. When Jesus rose, there was no huge church service or jubilant party. There was doubt. There was uncertainty. There was confusion. There was desperation. Here are some examples:
“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” (Luke 24:37)
“They still [after seeing the empty tomb] did not understand…” (John 20:9)
Yes, there was hope when they heard the news. But I imagine there was also exhaustion. Frustration. Probably some fear.
And yes, there was also joy and amazement (Luke 24:41 & 52), but there was a whole lot more than that, too. And Jesus was absolutely okay with that. Jesus met all of these emotions with immense love. He treated the doubter the same way as the joyous worshipper. With love. And peace. “Peace be with you” he says over and over again. And don’t even get me started on the evidence of community throughout these days following the resurrection. I’ll save that for another day.
And so, this Easter season, I do joyfully acknowledge that my God is a living and God who has overcome death itself, but also this joyful worshipper is learning how to let Jesus love the doubtful, fearful, frustrated spots as well. And a big part of that is gathering up the peace that He shows in the community that He has given me. So, thank you, Jesus, for your death and resurrection and for the fact that this means you are incredibly tangible in the community of people who surround me.