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New Places, Old Faces – Part 1: Living a Ministry of Peace

CW: Discussions of violence, suicide

What would you do if you encountered the person who had mugged you? How would you feel? What would you do if you were on the same bus as that person? What thoughts would rush through your head? Would you get off the bus? Would you worry that he would notice?

I was sitting on the bus on the way to my school placement on Tuesday, April 16. I was reading the Bible on my phone–I’ve been trying to do that more. As the bus sped away from the stop at which we had just paused, I felt someone pass by me to sit in the seat behind me. I turned my head and caught a glimpse of a familiar face. I suddenly knew that this was the person that had held me knife-point and robbed me three or four years previously. I sat in stunned silence, feeling nothing.

Nothing–except for the tugging idea that I should go and say thanks for changing my life.

At this point, I wouldn’t fault you for thinking, “Is this guy stupid? Does he want to get robbed again?”

The thing is, my life has come so far since the first time I met this guy, that dark night so long ago. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see mugging as a particularly enjoyable experience, but I don’t regret that it happened to me. Like Joseph, who forgave his brothers for being led by their jealousy to sell him into slavery, I have seen that he “intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:19-20).

Regardless, my good sense won out over my, practically, pretty dangerous sentiment. So, sitting on that bus, I texted my girlfriend. It went something like this:

Me: Hey, I think the guy who mugged me is on my bus.


Her: Are you sure?

Her: Are you okay?

Me: I’m pretty good.

Me: I’m pretty sure it’s him.

Her: Can you sit far from him?

Me: I’m sitting, like, next to him.

Her: Okay move!

Me: Like arm’s length

Her: No!

Me: It’s okay

Honestly, she was more freaked out than I was.

What made it even more interesting was that, the morning of the encounter, I had been reading Romans 8. Verse 31 tells us, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

God provided me calmness instead of fear, relaxation instead of worry, peace in the moment of trouble. Surprisingly, TTC was running late like usual so I thought I was going to be late and break my record for not being late to placement and this was more of a worry than what happened to me in the morning.

It may seem that I’m beating this idea of peace in trouble to death, but that’s just because I really want to stress how powerfully Christ has changed my heart. In the years since that mugging first showed me the meaning of peace, the one who is peace incarnate has taken me so far and worked so many wonders in my life and through my life.

And yet, there are still days when this peace seems farther than others.

Over the past few months, I’ve seen new situations cause me to fall into old habits; burnout has become very real to me again. There have been times where I have come very close to breaking.

I’ve had too much on my plate–between school, work, placement, church commitments, and all the other responsibilities that come with adult life in the 21st century, I’ve pushed my body to go beyond what it’s capable of. When I told my supervisor about this, he confessed that I hadn’t looked well for the last two weeks and other staff had been commenting on my tiredness. A lot of the time, I honestly feel like I can’t do anything–that my body just can’t move anymore. The work I push out is a hollow, clanging gong–I’m doing everything that’s required of me, but without the love that needs to accompany it. Trying to hold everything together, I’ve made careless mistakes and forgot about things that are important; at placement, I’ve suddenly felt simple things becoming impossible. Still, I’ve kept pushing. On top of this, I realized I have been eating poorly and exercising little, which certainly affected the situation. My body has felt so different and my head hasn’t been in it. I’ve kept pushing. It didn’t feel normal. I’ve kept pushing. My hands were shaking. I keep pushing.

I push my body to 150% when it can’t even handle 110%. I’ve felt like I was going to break down. I’ve felt like I couldn’t keep the tears at bay.

This just how it looked back when I used to think of suicide.

I’ve become very aware of how much I need to find a better life balance–one that includes self-care at work and at rest. I need to take step back and take care of my mental health.

Ministry is my life; or, rather, Jesus is my life, and ministry is my worship. But ministry can’t happen on my own power, especially when it has fallen so low.

I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 22. “Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40).

If we are to follow Jesus’ example, we must live our lives in worship, trusting in God first and foremost, and “in humility value[ing] others above [our]selves” (Philippians 2:3). We have a powerful promise that the God who cares and provides for even the lowliest sparrow values us so much more, so we don’t need to live our lives consumed by concern for our own wellbeing. Yet, as I’ve said before, self-care is important. When I fall into a place of burnout–when I’m running on empty and pushing too hard–I’m not loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind; I’m using all three of these faculties on myself and my work and realizing just how small they really are.

I know I’m not alone in this. I also know that it’s not easy to reach out. We don’t want to admit we need help, because we think that strength means relying on ourselves. Self-care is about realizing our limits–the limits of our heart, soul, mind, and body–respecting these limits by faithfully taking care of that which God has entrusted us and understanding that it is him who takes our ordinary and makes it extraordinary.

But self-care is not the end of the story–it helps us see the peace that is possible; it doesn’t create it. There is a peace which surpasses all understanding, and I’ve learned that it doesn’t come from me.

This however, is something that I need to keep reminding myself.

Today’s reflection is part of a two-part series. Stay tuned for part two, coming June 8.


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Please be advised that this blog post may discuss topics related to suicidal ideation. If you feel that the content may affect your well-being, please proceed with caution. If you or someone you know

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