When I think of the word peace, I am gently led down a pathway to a secret garden, deep and far from the noisy and busy cityscape of my mind. It is an oasis encircled in hushed tones and secluded moments of quiet rest and worry-free thought. This special, hard to come by dimension is free of phone calls, emails, traffic jams and the daily stress and strain that pull my spirit taut, to the splitting point. I long to lay there in that soft and secure place long enough to feel its embrace and unmistakable life-giving presence; all wrapped up like a cocoon, like a swaddled infant dozing the day away in one of those cozy motorized swings on low-speed.
Startled by the rare silence, I quickly snap back from the serene garden's edge and take sad note that my life-reality offers little opportunity for such moments. Due to my multi-tasking, type-A+ personality and insatiable appetite to always do more, see more, and be more, this profound need gets pushed to the bottom of my to-do list or left off altogether. And now, with Covid unleashing more havoc than ever, all parts of life just feel out of kilter and soaked in the vinegar of unease. Obtaining absolute peace feels unreachable, impossible. It seems I am in good company in this struggle as many of us are feeling the relentless press-down on the world right now and hardly think to make time for full-fledged mind and heart rest. It is just all too much. And, it is not like we write the words "be still and peaceful" in our daily planners.
But, the more I live out the crowded and scattered days of my own life, I am starting to wonder if I indeed should do just that. If something is written in pen on my calendar I do it. I make space for it, honor it and set aside precious time for it. Glancing at my upcoming week ahead, I see that client meetings, errands, and the dreaded bi-yearly dental cleaning appointment have all been given a coveted timeslot, but what is glaringly missing is intentional time spent in union with rest. It seems I have, yet again, knocked time for peaceful moments onto the floor and swept it under life's dusty rug, ignored and too often forgotten.
Shalom, or the Hebrew word for peace is a gorgeous and deeply layered term for what Christ's in-dwelling presence offers. It is defined by Strong's Concordance as "completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalam meaning to be complete, perfect and full." Now this is what I call an all-star lineup of desirable things! Somebody sign me up! Please.
Reading that list over again, I suddenly pounce on its claims with shortsighted doubt; "Hang on just a minute, you mean I can have ALL of that? Even while living down here in my crazy, busted up days? Is that really possible?" God confirms that indeed, it is attainable because of what occurred on that sacred first Christmas. The prophet Isaiah scribed the birth announcement and invitation of the ages to eternal shalom offered for all of mankind: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (9:6)
Jesus, the once swaddled babe and final Passover lamb laid in Bethlehem's manger came to offer the swaddling of our very souls in shalom! He is the Prince if its kingdom and the gates are opened wide to each of us. No longer are we slaves to sin, hate, sickness and stress. We instead hold the golden ticket to everlasting peace; and yes, that includes here-and-now, everyday peace found and kept through our connection to Him. I for one, am checking the "Yes" box to this incredible beckoning from the Divine. Let's all attend the banquet each day and form a lasting habit of staying where He is, hosting the best of gatherings - one-on-one, intimate shalom. He and I. You and He. Holy hospitality filled to the brim and the promised and lasting union unfurled:
"Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you." (Isaiah 54:10)
After reflection on God's irresistible invitation to peace, I have made an important, life-saving decision. I am now going to write into my daily planner (in ink): "Attend shalom" - in other words, stop the madness and link up to Peace, resting in tranquil completeness. We must not neglect this necessary and most crucial of commitments. Life is better when we choose to do this over the many things that drain and not fill.
Here is what I am learning: It is impossible to offer my best to God and people if my cup is constantly wiped out, scraped bone dry. I must take the time to pour into it this most-needed fuel and honor it rather than ignore its urgent calling. Through the rich routine of prayer and reading of scripture, of speaking and listening to God, encircled in His realm of gleaning and loving, we can each tether ourselves to Shalom.
We really can find our way back to and settle into the garden in which our souls long to reside. I know I can certainly cross many other less important things off my calendar to open space for the best gift of this and every other season - peace and joy through time with the One who embodies and is the keyholder of both.
Question: What of little value can you carve out of your days to make time for this priceless invitation to shalom?