“It is finished.”
That you could say the same about your long dark affliction! That you could say the same words with a sense of triumph or peace. You’ve probably already echoed Christ’s earlier words, If it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Perhaps you say those words every day, and with great grace on some days you might also add, not my will but yours be done.
But the cup did not pass.
And right now you feel quite sure you are at your darkest hour of suffering…a suffering misunderstood by others and dreaded by yourself. What will you pray now?
On the Friday of Christ’s final depth of suffering and tortuous death he prayed two short prayers. Only one was for himself. The other request came first:
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. He prayed while in torment, nails freshly hammered into his hands and feet. A crowd mocked him as he bled. Prior to these cruel hours, church leaders had opposed him (for years), politicians had not pressed for justice, and onlookers did not intervene against injustice. His brothers thought he was crazy, his closest friends deserted him. Judas turned him in for bounty money. Peter denied even knowing the man when his own reputation and wellbeing was threatened.
Perhaps Christ’s prayer makes sense to you, considering the reputation of “mental illness” in our culture and what you have experienced while struggling with symptoms of schizophrenia. Alienation, isolation, stigma, denial of rights, indifference, indignity. Christ had been opposed, spied upon, and falsely accused. Men had planned to throw him off a cliff. Yet in his final hours he prayed they would not face judgment for their sins against him.
Though we wish Jesus had come to somehow make earth peaceful (force us? insist? punish?), he came to forge forgiveness between ourselves and God. He then calls us to imitate him by forgiving others. His plan differs from ours since we prefer revenge or an insistence on noticeable change, but as we forgive, we help bring God’s peace to our lives and to others. Perhaps the people you have met in your journey through the mental health system desperately need that peace.
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. When the men surrounding Christ were at their worst and Christ’s sorrow at its greatest, he surrendered his life and death completely to God.
I have no witty words on surrender because it has taken me a lifetime to experience deepening levels of the trust Christ displayed, and I have more to learn. Let the fact that Jesus remained committed to God’s plans and purposes, painful as his life got, stir up a desire in you to reach for the same goal. By the power of the Holy Spirit.
On these last days of the church’s reflection on and celebration of Easter, the prayers of Christ put into practice will guide us to share a portion of his victory. Like us, he wept, suffered, groaned and prayed, but through all his years on earth he stayed true to his mission to reconcile men to their creator, God. Forgiveness is the hallmark of our faith – God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others.
The wrongs and sins and omissions of others can seem too cruel to forgive, until we remember the wrongs and sins and omissions we have committed against them. That humbling thought, along with surrender to God, will open the door to the grace of forgiveness. You might also have the calling to right some wrongs in the mental health or legal system, but if you never have the strength or resources or soundness of mind to do so, take heart that you can answer God’s call to forgive.
Lord, taking up the cup of forgiveness does not appeal to me, especially since I bear deep wounds, yet I want to follow in your footsteps more than anything else. Schizophrenia has brought destruction to my life and family. I’m angry and destitute, but you spoke of an abundant life that I still long for with all my heart. I feel too far gone for peace, but you can do what no man can. Stir up your life in me, heal me, comfort me. Give me the grace to start where you finished — open my heart and soul to the grace of forgiveness and the peace it brings. Open my heart to you. Amen.