We have a picture of Jesus in our house. He has been with us since we first saw him hanging in the small artists studio in Assisi, Italy on our honeymoon. We were walking the town of Assisi, after descending down the hill from where St. Francis would go and pray, and we stumbled into this amazing studio owned by this man- Cruciani. We were in our early 20’s, practically broke as we backpacked through Italy, and so naïve and in love on our honeymoon. We scraped together all the extra money we had to buy the painting. We will always have this picture with us, we thought, to remind us of Jesus’ great love for us during all the seasons of life.
The picture was shipped from Italy to Spokane, Wa where we were living when we got married. From there we drove it to California in our first rental house in Pasadena. Jesus lived there with us for a year until we bought our first house in La Crescenta. Jesus spent 3 great years with us in that little cottage on Manhattan Avenue just west of the high school where I taught. We packed Jesus up in 2004 and moved him to Fremont, WA with us in our townhouse as we prepared for the birth of Avery Marie. After two years, Jesus moved with us to the house on 29th Ave where we lived for the last 6 years. And now Jesus is with us again in our new rental home in Edmonds. Everywhere we go, and have been, Jesus has been with us. This is what we imagined when we bough the painting in 1999.
But what we didn’t know, and really had no clue, is what the painting of Jesus would see in our home during the last 12 years. Jesus has seen many changes to our family. He has seen those naïve and joyous newlyweds cultivate a beautiful marriage of 12 years that at times was forged by the challenges of conflict. There have been times of fun and excitement in our house, and other times of extreme stress. There have been times of deep love and times of bitter disagreements and frustration. There have been tickling sessions and giggles and other times without so much joy. And Jesus has seen great joy and the excitement of 3 babies entering our home. Jesus has also seen great pain as we mourned the loss of our baby Fisher in 2008 and now a miscarriage of a brand new pregnancy this week. Through it all, Jesus has been with us, literally hanging on our living room wall keeping His eyes on us. And obviously on a much deeper level, Jesus has been with us spiritually, binding our hearts together through all the highs and lows that life has thrown at us.
I was reading the gospel of John this morning about what Jesus says after the resurrection we celebrate at Easter. Jesus was brutally murdered and His followers were thrown into chaos and fear as they gathered in hiding wondering what happened to their Messiah Jesus and what might happen to them if the Jewish leaders found out they had been followers of Jesus. Jesus had already risen and appeared as the Gardener to Mary in John 20:15, but even after Mary has told the disciples this, they were in fear and meeting behind closed doors. In the midst of this chaos and fear and confusion, Jesus returns. His words? “Peace be with you.” He said it again so they wouldn’t miss it- “Peace be with you.” And then He breathed on them to give them the Holy Spirit. The power of the peace comes not in a spectacular light show in the sky, but through the breath of the risen Lord.
For me, in this week of sadness, confusion, and trying to hold it all together to care for others, the breath of peace intrigues me. How come things go bad? Why doesn’t Jesus always protect us from the bumps and bruises of life? Because he never promised it would be easy, but only that He would be with us. His breath is a promise not of an easy life, but of unity with Him. Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” We aren’t promised ease in the world, just promised Jesus is with us. I’m not particularly satiated by this today, but I know it will be easier to digest tomorrow and perhaps a bit better the day after that.
I confess, when I hurt and the people I love hurt, I too get mad and frustrated at God. And yet the promise is clear- “peace be with you.” I’m clinging to the promise today…clinging to the promise of peace.