In my life, peace is too often an afterthought. I’m not naturally a peaceful person. Productive? Yes. Problem-solver? Yes. Able to see the brighter side of most events (but also somehow to feel all the things in a paradox that is confusing even to me?) Yes. Energetic? Yes. People-oriented? Yes.
Peaceful? Tranquil? Restful?
Umm, that’s a hard no.
I would rather clean bathrooms than do yoga and host forty people for dinner than take a nap. I want to want to love the idea of a silent retreat but it actually makes every fiber of my being cringe in horror.
Obviously silent retreats themselves do not create peace in a person, my point is just that I’m not even a person who seeks peaceful occasions out. I like order and I like structure but it’s primarily because it lets me accomplish more things in life. I think I was just born with a bit of an old soul and I live constantly aware of the passing of time. I want to meet all the people, visit all the countries, try all the foods, read all the books and experience all the things.
Creating peaceful moments in my life will probably be a lifelong exercise. It’s one reason I pay $10 an hour to go to the sauna a few times a month. I need the stillness and forced contemplation that it provides. The mandatory quiet, the controlled breathing that is necessary to handle the increased temperature and the decreased vision (turns out glasses quickly steam up in saunas when you try to write your weekly menu in there). I need it all.
I need to force my body into regular stillness to think well. To remember all the things I can never accomplish through endless activity. I need to be called back to remembering the peace of Christ. It’s why I plant myself in front of sunsets and pray liturgies that help center my mind when I want so badly to do something else that I consider watering my fake plants or color-coding the bookshelf (I badly wish just one of these ridiculous examples wasn’t drawn from my daily life).
It’s why I come back again and again to Jesus, he who has the words of eternal life. I’ve tried many other things but I return to him because, as it turns out, the peace, the Shalom, that I need isn’t found in any meal, experience, person, song, book, gift or plane flight available on earth. I’ve looked enough places to know that by now.
The pages of scripture also call me back:
Peace be with you. Peace and grace to you. The fruit of the spirit is…peace… seek peace and pursue it, My peace I leave you. Peace on earth. Make every effort to live in peace, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, the peace of God guards you, those who promote peace have joy, the Lord blesses his people with peace, great peace have those who love your law, you establish peace for us.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be a person who just wakes up peaceful (though I badly want to be). Yet, over the years I’ve come to deeply trust the second chances of the Gospel. The slow and patient work of a God who grows new things in us one day at a time. The goodness of the King whose son Jesus fills me up with every good thing I am lacking by his finished work on the cross.
I don’t need to (and can’t) manufacture peace, purchase peace, cross it off my to-do list, or find it organizing the closet. What I can do is faithfully put myself at the feet of Jesus, in the pages of Scripture and through prayer. In the circle of a community committed to living out the Gospel. In these places I am changed.
And each time, even when I feel so un-peaceful I can hardly see him, He Is There. The Prince of Peace. Working in whispers and changing in millimeters. And then my heart stills once again and there is peace to press on this pilgrim journey continuing to believe in his promises.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.