Yesterday in our community group at church we lit the second candle for Advent, the peace candle. Mark and I shared some thoughts about peace and the group entered into discussion. It didn't take long until the word forgiveness was spoken as something that keeps us from experiencing peace.
I shared something I'd written awhile back, about my own journey with peace.
It seems to me we are divided over more than unites us. I find myself wondering who needs to be heard, what stories have been stiffled, silenced and ignored that have brought us collectively as "the church" to where we are today.
We disagree and "unfriend" one another due to hot words spoken about race, gun control, the lgbtq community, refugees and immigrants. I feel torn inside as I read it all and then decide to sign off social media, only to return because I believe something more is possible and withdrawing feels like resigning in hopelessness.
The word that returns to me again and again in the midst of the turmoil that marks the larger narrative of our days is peace. It seems so obvious, and almost cliche to speak that we need it.
Truth is often obvious, simple and sitting right in front of us. The devious and destructive nature of evil in our world is that it so often takes truth twists and distorts it some and we lose sight of it.
My need for peace became profound a few years ago when circumstances in my life left me starving, grasping and pleading for it. On Sunday mornings our pastor would conclude the service, "Peace be with you." and in unison we would say, "And also with you." I felt the lump in my throat and the angst in my heart as I stood amidst people acutely aware that peace was eluding me and others around me. I became obsessed with figuring out how to make peace, facilitate peace and talk about peace in my relationships, while also praying for God to provide it. For me this is my sin, my addiction, the driving force within me that is tied to my fear of being controlled by someone or something that will betray me.
Recovery from addiction is painful, often requiring the intervention of a loved one.
I am very loved by God.
So ironic at some level that my addiction would be surfaced in the context of being unable to control a peace process for myself and a team of people I loved.
When I ran out of ways to try and make peace happen I was left to sit with my heart and wonder about what it meant for the peace of Christ "to be with me, and also with you."
I cannot offer what I do not have.
My intervention, staged by God himself, came with so many circumstances reeling beyond my control that friends sat nearby tearful and speechless because it defied explanation.
My personal experience in some ways parallels what I see on a grander scale today. Madness. Mass shootings, terrorism, racism rally's, rejection and judgement of brothers and sisters in Christ, venomous spewings from one side of the church being hurled at the other.
As people are objectified and vilified we no longer have to hold their humanity or our own. The distance we create keeps us feeling powerful, barricaded and without a need for Jesus or the peace He purchased for us.
The peace of Christ is mine because of the work of Christ on the cross. I had to sit and wonder for myself what was it was that kept me from experiencing that peace. In His wisdom I believe God forced my hand and left me with only Jesus to provide the peace that hurt, brokenness, loss and betrayal had left me feeling. And, in doing so I found that peace was no longer tied to my circumstances.
The fuel for division and destruction is fear, distrust, and a loss of control. We resist the true surrendering of our hearts because we fear what will happen and mistrust those we perceive to have power and therein we refuse, grasping tightly any shreds of control we believe we have.
Peace be with you is a common greeting found in the New Testament and in making it part of our practice today we engage in training our hearts and minds to practice peace, if we take it to heart and don't speak the words lightly.
It is about the cross being enough.
What would it mean if we personally engage our own hearts and put the cross between us? What could we confess? What could we forgive? Would we experience that Jesus is indeed enough and through Him we can be mutually be at peace?
We passed the peace in our group at church yesterday morning, holding a prayer candle and feeling the light and warmth from it, one by one we looked into each others eyes and spoke the words,
"Peace be with you."
"And also with you."