Staples of Christmastime: Peace


 Thou dost keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusts in Thee. —Isaiah 26:3 (RSV) 

I don't do a lot of personal revelation here at Cerulean Sanctum. For the benefit of those people who grapple with the whole idea of "Peace on Earth," I thought I'd share a few things. CandleLast year, I wrote on peace, but wanted to revisit the issue since I struggle with inner peace more than most people, I suspect.  In trying to nail all the things down that I must do before Christmas, deal with the fallout from last week, and just get my head right in this season of the Coming King, peace fled away faster than a rocket-powered sleigh.

I start by noting this is the second time I've written this post. It started out paired with the post on Prosperity, then I realized I needed to split it. So I duplicated the tab in Firefox, giving me two copies of the post. I deleted the Peace from the Prosperity and the Prosperity from the Peace and saved both. the Peace section first. Sadly, in doing so, WordPress could not distinguish the post IDs from each other, so in saving the Prosperity second, I said goodbye to the Peace post. Evidently, duplicating the tab was clever, but stupid at the same time. Lesson learned. A perfect metaphor for peace—or the lack of it—we find at Christmastime. Say goodbye to all that work and do it again.

So much for clearing the To-Do list.

A couple weeks ago, I went to bed at 2:45 AM after a day of frenzy. A half hour later, my head still buzzed with things to do. Over the next hour after that, I would get up four times because I'd forgotten to

  1. Take out the trash
  2. Feed the rabbit
  3. Start the dishwasher
  4. Close the garage door.

If I don't attend to those little activities, who will? Let them slip and the next thing you know, Junior's weeping because Fluffy Bunny won't "wake up." So sleep becomes a precious commodity.

Someone should have informed the world at my birth that I'm not one for frantic activity. I have a tendency amid busyness to stand in the center of a room and wonder why I'm there. I know I came in for something, but what? The older I get, the less I seem capable of handling the fast-paced American lifestyle we're each called to live. I don't think God intends us to live like headless chickens, but what's a headless chicken to do?

Knowing Christ dealt with my sin certainly gives peace. I think that's the peace the Bible speaks of when it talks about peace. The passage that begins this post is from the RSV because it's the version I memorized long ago. Despite knowing that verse backwards and forwards, peace still seems elusive in an age when machines scream at you to attend them. A couple weeks ago, my Palm PDA, the phone, and the beep of an incoming e-mail on my computer all went off in a fury of audible technical alerts at precisely the same moment. My scalp still hurts from ramming my head through the tiny plaster points of our textured ceiling, such was the altitude I achieved.

Peace. What is peace?

It's not just busyness that kills peace. I'm not a good one for the type of decision-making peace my wife comes by so easily. When an enormous, forever-life-altering decision must be reached, she determines the correct direction by peace. You may have heard it before, that "I felt peace about it" thing that so many utter when assured that God's delivered unto them the one perfect choice. Hours spent searching the Scriptures for some evidence that the saints of old justified their choices by the amount of peace they felt in making a decision came to naught for me. To this day, I don't think I've ever felt that kind of peace when making any of the major decisions I've confronted in life. That nagging feeling I wasn't doing the right thing never left.

I've seen a lot of people who made a decision at eighteen and decades later were still wilting like some sun-starved petunia under the shadow of that choice. Good people. Christian people. People who wrestle every day with a lack of peace because they don't want to add shadow upon shadow. It's one thing to quote them Romans 8:28 and something altogether different to stand by them until the shadow flees in the bright light of the Son. The latter reflects the heart of God, but how rare it is to find among people beset by too many e-mails, crying babies, and a Charles Schwab account manager on line one begging you to sell now or kiss your retirement goodbye.

Someone's got to take the blame when a decision goes awry, right? Not being one of those "get mad at God" types who likes to shake his fist at the heavens (where I come from, that's called "rebellion"), I tend to fall back on blaming myself for not scrying God's Master Plan for the Universe more thoroughly. I keep hoping that one day someone tries to hawk the Urim and Thummim on eBay. THOSE I'd bid on. You can keep the rest.

And so, dear reader, I ask: what is peace? And how does one find real rest for one's soul in the middle of lives kicked into overdrive?

In this season of peace, when you can still get away with sending a Christmas card festooned with an olive-branch-bearing white dove and not be blamed for offending someone else's beliefs (or lack of them), the answer to that question may be the best gift we can hope for under our trees.