February 12, 2021

Sight Unseen / Brandon A. Evans

A perfect place to start

Brandon A. EvansThere are days, inevitably, when you feel an emptiness all the way down to your gut—and often not one day, but many. You’re tired and lost, and there seems to be nowhere to go to find relief.

Choices you’ve made, or that have been made for you, have turned sour; difficulties—perhaps of health or wealth or family or depression—mount, and those around you either cannot or will not help.

The road vanishes ahead of us. The options we have are snatched from our hands, and the wide ways of the world are closed in like tightening circles.

God seems absent, damningly absent. We may curse his name or regret the days we trusted him, or even, in the midst of our embarrassment and failure, wish to never see him again.

He is there, though: above us not in heaven, but on a cross. In the barren clearing at all hope’s end, Christ the King hangs silently at his own point of despair.

Jesus came into this world knowing that it would not be enough for him to be hated, not enough for the strong to land a single blow, or two, or even 39. Not enough to stumble under his own cross and believe himself to be abandoned.

It had to go further. He had to be beaten down, all the way to the last breath of air and the last drop of blood.

The Lord God Almighty had to be defeated, and defeated absolutely.

But why? Perhaps so that when all else passes away from us it is still him that we find at despair’s depths: him silent, him broken, him dead from love for us.

And we are left to make the only offering we can: our emptiness. Our total and complete dependence on a Savior.

It’s a blessing when our whole world is whittled down to that lonely hill on Calvary, albeit a bitter one.

To be robbed of the sight of the future and have our own plans torn to pieces reminds us that we cannot control anything, and that peace does not—cannot—depend on all the things we wish to be the master of.

The seeming despair of the Cross frees us from the tyranny of our own self-determination and self-condemnation.

You are not, in the end, as powerful as you think. Even the destructive force of your own poor choices is no match for the creative power of the Maker of the Cosmos. He can undo, redo, remake and restore; he can bring something from nothing, light from darkness, order from chaos—for goodness sake, even make life from death. All things work for Him, the good and the bad.

You may think you have lost Christian hope, but what you have lost in the dark places of your life is only the hope in your own strength—hope in the world and its power.

However you got here, whatever you’ve done or has happened, you’re in this place because the Father let you come here, to stand in the silence and be formed invisibly and by means unknown. It can be a place of confusion, but know that a future rendered unseen to you is a future where anything is possible. All hope’s end is really all life’s beginning.

No one—no one—who has ever stood in the driving rain of despair and chosen to do it with Jesus will ever be denied the glory on the other side of the cross.

And so, when we can do nothing else, all that is left is to choose over and over to stay with Him, just a little bit longer, even if it’s already been too long—even if it’s already been years—to stay in that quiet place while he makes the road to a new tomorrow and fills our emptiness with gifts that we cannot understand.

Still, I’ve failed to live this advice, and failed often. Many times—so very many—I have barely embraced the Cross before immediately shoving it away. I am a poor student and a poorer disciple, but nevertheless, God keeps reaching down to me; keeps speaking words of hope.

Even this column came to be because of a seemingly random incident a few weeks ago, when I bumped into my horribly disheveled table at work and knocked a random paper onto the floor. Weary, I picked it up and found a scribble of words I’d written the previous year and had long forgotten: words for a totally unrelated project that was concerned with a line of dialogue between two fictional characters.

I read them and my eyes teared up. Against all odds, it was a message I needed to hear right then, written across time in my own hand but spoken back to me in a different voice.

Perhaps in sharing them, those words may reach someone who needs to hear them as much as I did:

“You feel the emptiness right down to your core. You’re tired and lost. There is nowhere to go, no road in front of you. It’s the end. What a perfect place to start.”

(Sight Unseen is an occasional column that explores God and the world. Brandon A. Evans is the online editor and graphic designer of The Criterion and a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield.)

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