Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Making Peace

I don't think of myself as a peaceful person.  A happy person?  A content person?  I try.  A kind person? I probably miss the mark on that more often than I care to admit.  But mostly, I am a seething mass of anxieties and frustrations, guilt and sometimes anger.  Maybe I'm not any more fraught with negative emotions than anybody else.  Nearly all of us put on a smooth, still mask in public to cover the roiling emotions within.  And yet, these days I keep feeling a call to peace.

I am an anxious person by nature.  I worry.  I analyze.  I replay humiliations on a loop in my head, hoping that repeated viewings will reduce the sting.  Not surprisingly, that doesn't work.  An orderly life filled with calm routine is my ideal, but these days it's unlikely to be my reality.  More often than not, my days are that's-not-the-right-foot-get-that-out-of-your-mouth-why-aren't-you-eating-a-few-more-papers-to-grade-just-let-me-read-one-more-book with no reasonable expectation of sanity.  So really, is a desire for peace so surprising?

In our house, peace has come to equal "quiet" and "alone."  Kiddo has learned that to allow Mommy to do something "in peace" means she makes herself scarce while I do something exciting like use the bathroom and scoop the litter box.  Peace is what the cat wants when he flees to the one room in the house where our giant dog can't hassle him.

Yes, please.

But peace is more than the absence of a thing.  No sound, no hurry, no distractions.  Peace isn't always something that waits for you in the quiet spaces.  Those little pockets of solitude in our days can be stressful and anxiety-inducing as we recite lists and obligations, mark down schedules and plan meals.  A few minutes of mindless television can turn into the least peaceful part of the day as a parade of horrors plays on the news, or a program or movie slips into familiar territories of violence, bigotry, and misogyny.

Sometimes we have to actively make peace.

I'm talking about more than turning off the TV and setting aside the to-do lists.  For me, so much about making peace in my life is about intentionally setting aside anger and remembering to what I am called.  My life is to be modeled after Jesus' life, and he was the ultimate peacemaker.  If Jesus had a car, his rear window and bumper wouldn't be crowded with stickers endorsing divisive partisan politics.  There wouldn't be a pithy endorsement of gun rights with a warning about what sort of weapon is protecting the vehicle.  He wouldn't be on social media rejoicing in the violent deaths of anyone, regardless of their histories or crimes. I believe he would weep just as much over the US, with its delusions of exceptionality, as he would over any conflict-riddled place on earth.  He would mourn the brokenness of this world, but he would still love the people in it.  And that love would cross lines of race, politics, sexual orientation, and religion.

Peace has been shadowing me for weeks.  Sunday's sermon? Peace.  Two beautiful books I recently read?  So much about peace.  This is about so much more than my nightly escape to a solitary bath and some one-on-one time with my Netflix subscription.  This is about that unconditional, unwavering love that makes everything else insignificant and small.  This is about living a lifestyle of peace.  Yes, even for that guy in the Mazda who couldn't wait in line like everybody else and cut me off at the exit to 385.  I've got to wish him peace as well.  And the people who post articles to social media that make my blood boil.  There is righteous anger, and there is just wanting to be right.  In scripture, Jesus' anger is laser-targeted and brief.  It's one short episode in a story full of love and peace.  He experienced righteous anger, but Jesus wasn't angry.  But I am.  A lot.

Such is the paradox of peace.  We live in a flawed and flailing world full of injustices that we must not blindly accept as "just the way things are."  And yet, in the midst of our shouting down evil, we must maintain our central message of love.  We are to be a peaceful people, uncorrupted by the violence and vitriol of the world.  It's a balancing act, one that doesn't always lend itself to peaceful feelings.  Even so, from the center of my hectic, messy life to yours, I wish you peace.

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