The lights burn low in the sanctuary and the voices raise high. They echo off rafters and doors, then flow down the walls like a flood of so many waters. I close my eyes and listen, let my thoughts drift back to years ago.
I stood here, right in this place, and felt like a warrior who had clawed her way back to her fortress after battle. Bloodied and bruised, armor dented, sword hanging by her side. “I will keep fighting,” I told myself then. “I will not give up.” Then I slumped inside, spent, and begged, “Jesus, help me.”
And He did. He rescued me from depression and anxiety that threatened to tear me apart, break my heart, and turn my joy into ashes with their flaming torches. They were marching, always marching toward me. In my weariness, Jesus became my strength. He delivered me again and again. With the help of a counselor and a doctor and a circle of close friends, I survived. And now, years later, I thrived.
When the pastor spoke of peace on this night when we would light the Advent candle for it, I saw it with new eyes. Years ago I thought of peace as only tranquility, the absence of something. But now, here, I knew it as the presence of Someone.
I had also learned this: there is a kind of peace that only comes after war. I could still smell the burnt edges in the air. I could touch the scars. I could run my fingers down patches in my armor. I would not forget.
The Hebrew word for “peace” is Shalom. It speaks of wholeness, completeness. I understand this better now, how peace comes out of brokenness, out of emptiness, out of the dark and unexpected places. We, as humanity, have experienced difficulties in this season of history. We grasp in new ways that peace is more than a word covered in glitter we hang on the wall at Christmas. Peace is a person who hung on a cross so we could be healed and free. For “the punishment that brought us peace was on him” (Isa. 53:5).
When a pandemic comes, He is our peace. When politics divide us, He is our peace. When the headlines seem to keep getting worse, He is our peace. In the big tragedies and small concerns, the ordinary moments and world-altering events, He is our peace.
I rolled these words around in my mind again and again.
No cross, no peace.
No nails, no peace.
No crown of thorns, no peace.
I thought then of how I have sometimes treated peace lightly, and I told the One who fought for it on my behalf, “Never again. I will not surrender what You have gained for me.” And I will not define peace as the world sometimes does, as weak or even boring, as only a whisper and never a roar.
“Let there be peace on earth,” the congregation sings.
I join in on the final note, “And let it begin with me.”
More for You
I’ll be speaking at the Living Sabbath Virtual Retreat happening January 7-9, 2022. I would love for YOU to join me! Over 3 days, you’ll hear from incredible speakers on how we can intentionally renew our minds, body, spirit, and relationships. If you need rest and a fresh start, this (online only) special event is for you! Sign up here.
Today on More than Small Talk, we’re talking about how hospitality is more about your heart than having a perfect home. Whew. Listen in!
Need a little extra encouragement? Want to live with more peace and less pressure, more calm and less chaos, more worship and less worry? If so, What Your Soul Needs for Stressful Times is for you.