Continuing on the theme of hope from last weeks blog post, I wanted to write something more about the kind of hope that Christ gives to us, and enables us to give to one another, using one of my favorite super-heroes, Charles Xavier, a.k.a. Professor X, to do so.
Charles gives a wonderful vision of hope in the movie, X-Men, Days of Future Past, which tells the story of mutants who work together across time, with the goal of changing the past, in order to save the future. In a moment of desperation, Charles, who has the power of telekinesis, visits his future self (Professor X)
Charles: I'm not the man I was. I open my mind up and it almost overwhelms me.
Professor X: You're afraid. And Cerebro knows it.
Charles: All those voices…so much…pain.
Professor X: It's not their pain you're afraid of. It's yours, Charles. And as frightening as it can be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It's the greatest gift we have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of us: hope
That last line of dialogue is also the truth of our lives, and the pain that is present in our lives is ultimately a gift, and not a curse. The emotional pain that we suffer, helps us to know that both ourselves and others matter. When someone is suffering, or even dies, we ache emotionally because we care about them. When we ourselves are hurting, it is our minds telling us that we are deserving of love, care, and comfort. If someone hurts us, or hurts others, our emotional response tells us that this behavior isn't right. Just as our physical bodies experience pain, to tell us something isn't right with them, our emotional side does as well. We are often able to treat our physical pain, so that we can do the things with our bodies that we want to do, thus it can be a gift to us. The same is true of our emotional selves, but we often times leave that side of things untreated, and it ultimately hinders our wholeness of health, just as a sprained ankle hinders our ability to walk.
When our emotional pain goes untreated, it doesn't just go away, it hides itself deep in our subconscious. Over time, the world, and all the pain that is in it can seem overwhelming, and we build up an immunity to the world by losing our ability to care, to feel useful, and to have any sort of hope for it. In order to keep from feeling our own pain, we retreat into self-made cocoons of frivolities, busyness, cynicism, and addiction, and creation becomes more disconnected, despairing, and cruel. It is true that hurting people hurt people, and on a global level, a hurting world hurts itself.
In the movie, it was Charles who confronted his own pain, and allowed himself to feel it, so that he could use his superpowers for good, and bring hope to the situation. For us, non-mutants, this confrontation with our own pain, and the pain of the world is too tall of an order for us. Thankfully, we have a Savior, who is both human and God, whose pain, bore out of unimaginable love, have given to us salvation and hope.
By the grace of Christ, we can embrace the pain in our lives, knowing that our God feels that pain with us, and is with us in it. What is so amazing, is that with Christ, as we embrace and feel our own pain, our cocoon starts to become stripped away, and we are able to bear the pain of others, and give them hope, the hope of Jesus Christ.