"There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep...that have taken hold."
My husband and I are watching Lord of the Rings for about, oh, the seventh time since we've been married-- but that's beside the point. This quote from the end of the book has come to my mind a number of times in the last few months. It makes sense of my own experience in just twenty-five years on this earth. It resonates with the stories of those close to me. And recently, we watched a film about a man whose life was filled with pain, loss, and injustice-- and then was stopped short by a painful, unjust death. His story ended without vindication, without restoration, without justice. It was a life that time couldn't mend.
And these things have helped me to realize that sometimes, on this side of eternity, things just don't work out the way they should. Some stories end with hurts that go too deep, with wounds that never heal. Some tensions never resolve. And that is because in this world, things are not as they should be. Whether you've grown up wealthy and privileged or poor and disenfranchised, religious and conservative or liberal and atheistic, you have experienced this sad reality to some degree. Things are not as they should be.
Christians believe that this is because a foreign power broke the world-- sin and evil wreaked havoc on all that God created. This has corrupted everything we see and experience, right down to the subtle desires of human hearts: from world wars and genocide to common intra-office slander and back-stabbing, we were meant for more. And Christians believe that God took on the very stuff of broken creation in Jesus Christ in order to restore it all to Himself. On the Cross He waged war with the foreign power and won, so that we might be reconciled and re-created in Him, right down to the very subtle desires of our hearts. This dead-and-raised-Jesus changes everything.
And yet, this change-- this rescue of the world in Christ-- is not yet complete until Christ's return. And so even as a Christian, I can't run to a system or a formula and expect everything to work out for everyone in the here and now; I can't expect every story to end happily if we all just believe or try hard enough or think positively enough. I have to set aside my American optimism at the foot of the Cross which reminds me that the war is won, but not without the shedding of blood. I have to fix my eyes on Christ, who is making all things new now, but not quite yet.
In other words, as a Christian I still have to live with loss that will never be fully mended in this life. And as painful as it is, it brings me closer to the reality that this broken place-- including my own broken heart-- is desperate for the final and full presence of Christ to restore it. It gives me permission to grieve fully and deeply-- without needing to slap on a Pollyanna face, at best, or chemically numb myself to the pain, at worst-- and yet it invites me to do so with hope. Because it teaches me how to understand His words, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."