Today marks 4 weeks until I am in South Korea. This time next month- I hope, I’ll be arriving and unpacking and training for my teaching job. Pinch me…
The emotions of leaving my home for a year and planting myself in a foreign country waned at first, and were weak, but now as the departure approaches I find my emotions very raw, often painful, but deeply mingled with a sense of hope and rightness. Since the day I found out I had the job, I felt numb- that “this isn’t real” phase. Now, each time I laugh with my family, hold Andrew’s hand, or even walk the floors of this home I love so much, I find I am walking in this tension of soaring excitement and a tightening dread. Anxious and so excited- this paradox, I am finding out is the best place to be because it shows me a deeper glimpse of a fulfilling life, which is this paradox on an even deeper level: earthly pain — eternal joy. earthly sorrow — eternal hope.
I was reading a blog by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Andrew Peterson today. He wrote about a term coined by J.R.R. Tolkien: eucatastrophe, “the sudden joyous turn.” To quote Peterson, “It’s that moment when all seems lost, when evil seems to have finally overcome every good thing, when the hero can go no further. Then light prevails against the darkness.” *
When I process the emotions that now swell in my heart, I always find I am in this joyous turn:
I hug Andrew in the driveway and by the time I’m on the highway headed home I am sobbing hopeful and sorrowful tears, each goodbye brings us closer to the last goodbye. eucatastrophe: I let myself think about being without him for a year+ and it is far too painful- until I rest in the hope that this pain is refining and beautiful in its own way, this journey in all its unknowns may be the greatest adventure yet. I glance around the table and soak in the memory of my mom’s face and my sister’s face and the richness of our conversation and warm coffee in my hand as the sun sinks behind us. eucatastrophe: I ache with the thought of not having these moments for a year, but I rest in the hope that they are my home and they love me no matter where I go, or where my sister goes, or where my family lives.
When my mind becomes filled with fears of loneliness, anxious mental pictures of me sitting alone in my apartment, without a friend, not finding a church, hating my job, being too afraid to go around the city, having nothing to eat because I can’t cook, friends in the states losing touch because it’s too hard to coordinate talking around the time difference, aching with homesickness…. I think- even if that IS what my year looks like, the light prevails. It always does. Eventually, I will return home. Eventually, I will hold Andrew’s hand again. Eventually, I will drink coffee with my sister and my mom and laugh and have dinner with my family once again. The metaphor is small in comparison to the real and True eucatastrophe, but I wrap myself in the comfort that the loneliness and homesickness and ache and pain I might face in Korea only mirrors the groaning of all creation, our eternal homesickness. Hope always lies deep and sometimes silent, but I cling to it still. The only finality I know is not any of the pain or sadness or longing or loneliness this side of eternity. Peterson also said, “ Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate eucatastrophe. When Jesus, the perfect man, God made flesh, cries out and exhales his dying breath, the sky is black and roiling, the ground shakes, the dead emerge from their tombs and haunt Jerusalem, and the sheep scatter. But Sunday morning, more than just the sun rises. Everything changes. It’s not just a story, it’s the story. A sudden joyous turn, indeed.”
Light always prevails.
Pippin: I don’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass. And then you see it.
Pippin: What, Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores…and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” I John 1:5