Two days ago, Russia declared war on Ukraine. When I went to bed that night, I wondered what kind of world we’d wake up to – how it would be different, how some things would be irretrievably damaged or completely destroyed. I prayed for peace, both within and without.
And then yesterday, when I had planned to write about peace, I found myself frozen and lifeless, unable to concentrate on ideas, sentence structure, or word choices.
I spent the day watching old movies and cleaning, finishing up some *birdhouse* doo-dads and making a valiant attempt not to check in every other minute to hear the latest news.
Despite the low-grade rumble in my stomach, today seems better.
Given the overwhelming prospects of war and an overactive imagination, I searched for comfort and recalled a post I’d copied in my “journal of quotes” by Aubrey Sampson, an author I’ve met, followed and admired:
It’s been a long season (for so many) in what feels like an absence of shalom (wholeness, peace, blessing).Instagram 2/20/22
Amen and amen.
Some of the reasons for this “lack of wholeness” are easily attributed to the rise and controversy of the pandemic. I say rise because it seems like what we expected to be a limited-engagement turned into an endless performance of illness, isolation, loss, death, and sorrow.
It seems to just get worse, not better. And we see no final curtain any time soon.
I say controversy because we are long past disagreement. We have reached the point of complete division – on a large scale. And I find myself not astonished or frustrated or angry that people I thought I knew have walked away because we disagree.
I am now just so profoundly sad. Sad for our losses of family and friends. And friendships. I know there can be miraculous healing in relationships. But it takes hard and willing work for all involved. I’m just not sure that will happen.
Woven so tightly into the chaos of the pandemic, we see the same absence of shalom in our strained and shredded political interactions.
I have mourned the brokenness we continue to witness as our connections crumble, and my fervent response is twofold:
- Bless us, Oh Lord, and help us find each other again.
- I pray that if it turns out I had everything completely upside down and backwards, I will, without hesitation, say to all that need to hear, “I am sorry. I was wrong about all of it. You had it right, and I should have been a better listener.”
But this unprovoked war on a peaceful and sovereign nation. This all-out savage attack on people simply living each day with hope.
This attack that demonstrates so clearly how evil has not diminished over time as a result of our better understanding or awareness of history’s ugliest events. It just seems to get more evil – and more clever – with every passing year, finding all kinds of new ways to inflict misery on the weakest and helpless – those with no way to fight back.
The attack – the final straw that challenged a verse I’ve long looked to for inspiration and admonition:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.Romans 12:18 ESV
The thing is too many times I don’t always want to live peaceably with all.
I want to fight against the conspiracy theorists, the don’t-you-dare-take-my-freedom pandemic deny-ers, the politicians and US citizens who support Putin’s Christian values.
And I want to push back HARD against those who believe that they have God all figured out and can provide straight lines to all the answers. I am both frustrated and sad that so many with whom I share faith have lost the beautiful vision of a mysterious God.
I’m at the I just want to take you by the shoulders… stage.
Not so peaceful, eh?
But what would it look like, anyway? Maybe to live peaceably means that, if he is shouting a version of “TRUTH” from the rooftop, with ideas and beliefs that disparage all I hold dear, I start with quiet reflection and prayer. And when this “truth” gets personal and hurts or attacks someone I know, I don’t post with eloquence and a sharp pen, but approach him with humility and prayer. I bring more questions than statements and listen to his story with both ears.
And not from a position on a roof down the block, but at his back door, with a cuppa joe and maybe some scones, where I can advocate for those I love without publicly shaming or belittling anyone.
A quiet conversation like this may not have a far-reaching effect. But what impact can I hope to make on a global level if I am not willing to sit eye-to-eye and welcome robust conversation with a neighbor?
Yes, there are movers and shakers who reach far and wide, broadcasting fresh ideas of love and community. Good for them – we need everyone we can get.
But I am convinced that systemic and heartfelt, soul-deep change will truly come about most effectively one peaceful encounter at a time.
Unfortunately, my nature pushes me to snarl at social media and throw rocks at the television or radio. And how I present myself, how I guide my words and actions needs a little work.
I can say that I’m pretty good at not leading with a sucker-punch when presented with some sort of nonsense I think is outrageous or flat out dumb. I’m pretty good at holding that all in, taking a beat, and usually letting it slide. Most of the time.
What I feel, however, needs serious adjustment. Because even if I don’t lash out in kind to people who find it perfectly acceptable to label the rest of the world dim-witted, uninformed, or gullible, I struggle to find anything even related to peace in my soul.
That needs some serious soul-searching and work.
Because that peace, the kind we need to feel with consistency and without exception, doesn’t benefit only them – the ones with whom we take exception. It softens our hearts, clears our vision, and keeps us balanced.
For now, to the extent possible and so far as it depends on me, my lovelies, my hope is to achieve that kind of peace with everyone I know – and even most of those I don’t.
Until we write and read again, I pray for you …