This weekend I went to hang out with some nuns. It was awesome.
The Villa de Matel convent in Houston has a lovely spiritual retreat center. I enjoy escaping there; it’s good for my soul to spend extended time in silence and solitude, waiting for the Lord to speak.
This time, it took longer than normal for my mind to shut up. I became frustrated. At one point I thumbed open my Bible, looking for any random verse, demanding answers from God -- surely, if I could get the answers I sought, then I could enter super-spiritual communion with the Lord.
My Bible fell open to Luke 24:13 - Jesus’ burial and resurrection. After Jesus’ death, the disciples were hurt and confused. What they really wanted were answers. Where were they supposed to go from here?
Jesus appears to a follower named Cleopas and his friend as they are walking along the road (they don’t know it’s him). Cleopas remarks “We had hoped that [Jesus] would be the one to redeem Israel....”
The disciples’ longing for concrete answers reminds me of myself. It’s what I was doing, vehemently slicing my Bible open, jabbing my finger at a random verse and demanding an answer for the big questions that plagued my mind. I think I’m often like this.
Perhaps I want answers even more than his presence - I want to neatly organize the multiple confusions in my head. I want to pack memories away, check off a box, and move on.
What stuck out to me most is that when the resurrected Jesus appears before this big group of his best friends after having died and coming back to life, of all the things he could say, he chooses: “Peace to you!” (verse 36) “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts swell up in your hearts? See my hands and my feet - it’s me! Touch me, and see.”
Then: “We got any food? I’m hungry. Let’s eat.”
I can just picture it. Jesus is sprawled across a chair, casual, like, “What’s up. Yeah, surprise, I know! Just kidding, I’m totally alive!” - as if it’s no big deal.
He promises that it’s really him. And he expects that to be enough; he expects his presence to quiet the questions in their minds.
It isn’t until later, after they’ve spent good time together, that he explains things to them. Before he leaves, he promises them the Holy Spirit, so they’ll never be alone again (verse 49).
They wanted answers. They wanted to clean up the mess he had left in his wake.
And I get it. I feel for the disciples. Because often, in the wake of God’s work or just in the middle of LIFE happening, there’s a mess left behind. There are more questions than answers.
I find myself standing in the rubble of an old life, in clothes that don’t fit anymore, sensing new life struggling to break forth, but I’m scared to put my foot down in the wrong place … and I just so badly want answers to my questions.
I can picture myself standing in front of Jesus, stamping my foot like an entitled child. Sometimes giving him the silent treatment. Sometimes in an all-out temper tantrum, torrent of tears and wondering why he won’t pick me up and make it better.
And Jesus just stands there. He says “Peace to you.” “Touch me - I’m really here.”
And he laughs affectionately at me, exasperated. And he says “Peace to you! Let’s just hang out here for a while.”
Just as he did to the disciples so many years ago.
We want answers. Jesus promises peace. The Holy Spirit. His presence. And he assures us, that’s enough.
John 15: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit .. will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”