Last week, I wrote my Monday Benediction and a blog post all about hope, so as to match the theme for the first week of Advent. My plan was to do the same thing today, for peace, and so on through the rest of the season. But yesterday came and went and I found I had little to say about peace, and no clarity came this morning.
All day long, my boys seemed determined to get on each other’s nerves. They spent most of the day pushing and shoving one another, snatching toys from each other’s hands, crying each time the other got in his way. And doing it all at the loudest possible volume. I walked around the house thinking (because “praying” is probably too strong a word), “Isn’t this week supposed to be peaceful?!”
This concept of peace also feels heavy this year, given all that’s happening in the world: Syria and refugees, Trump and tweets, Standing Rock and ISIS. We all have very different ideas about what peace entails and what will bring it about. Some of us believe letters, phone calls, and blog posts are the path forward. Some choose legislation while others choose sit-ins and picket lines, and still others believe in the power of boots on the ground. And I think each of us believes peace exists solely in the past, or in the status quo, or in the future.
Peace, like the rest of Advent, feels like a lesson in contradictions right now. On the one hand, I believe it’s something we need to work for, strive for, build, create, cultivate, even fight for. On the other hand, I believe peace is being handed to us, a fruit being offered, something we can only receive as a gift. It’s both an internal and external reality.
The other day I went through the Starbucks drive-through after dropping Ian off at preschool, and scrawled across my red cup were these words: “Love and joy, crafted by hand and by heart.” I snapped a photo, because it reminded me of one of my favorite Brené Brown quotes: “We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.” It was just a Starbucks cup, but I can’t stop thinking about it.
As I’ve mulled over this post, I wanted to land in one spot or another: hand or heart? Which is it? Do we work for peace, or do we receive it as a gift from Jesus?
Of course, the answer is both. Just as both God’s spirit and Jesus’ physical presence are required for our redemption, both our hands and our hearts are essential for peacemaking. Advent is an irrational season of contradictions: darkness and light, impoverished little babies and kings, angels and shepherds, virgin unwed mothers, now but not yet. It is possible that while the entire world is walking away from peace, Peace is still coming. And peace is forged—simultaneously—through the transformation of our hearts and the work of our hands.
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.
Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. —Galatians 5:22-26 (The Message)
Dear Jesus, may we sense peace in our hearts and may be we create peace in the world. In this season and in every season moving forward, may we work out the implications of peace in every detail of our lives. And in your mercy, please bring peace to our hurting, broken, war-torn world.