A guest post today from Shirley Mahood, active member of Foothills Christian Church. Shirley is a Stephens Minister, an experienced lecturer and retreat presenter, and the author of Making Our Lives Work. She is available for retreats and other gatherings, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What Are You Waiting For?
Peace. At all times and in all situations.
I think this is what many people wait for, but it can be very elusive. Even when it does come, it is fleeting. We can be peaceful when all seems to be going well. But for some of us, even that is not always enough. We are worried about what MIGHT be coming down the pathway. The world provides many invitations to lose our feelings of peace. We may say we want peace. But as soon as something happens that we don’t like, we willingly give it up.
Sometimes even when I do feel peaceful, I find that peace slipping away by means of a very small thing: feeling pressured to get going on my Christmas cards, as I receive a card from friends two days after Thanksgiving; receiving a second notice about a bill that I already paid; realizing I had forgotten to charge my cell phone before I left home; not being able to find something where I KNEW I left it; and those are just the small things.
To name a few larger issues, peace can slip away with an illness, whether ours or someone else’s. Peace eludes us in the face of financial concerns, or when relationships break down, or when a loved one dies. Sometimes, our inability to forgive others– or feeling responsible for another person’s happiness–keeps us from knowing peace.
In this season, we celebrate the birth of the “Prince of Peace.” And yet, this very season leads to more depression, suicides, and general unhappiness than any other time of year. That which might be upsetting at any time seems insurmountable in the wake of all the busyness and expectations of the holidays.
Everywhere we turn, the world tells us that we are not good enough. And so we keep striving to be perfect, forgetting entirely that Jesus came to meet us where we are, as we are: far from perfect. God loves us as we are, and that is the message of the birth– and resurrection– of Jesus.
The question is, can we accept ourselves just as we are, imperfections, bad habits, weaknesses, and all? And can we trust that God is always with us, in all situations, at all times? When we can do that, we will know the peace that Jesus promised: a peace not as the world knows, but one that does not rely on outward circumstances.
A king commissioned several artists in his kingdom to paint a picture of peace. There would be a prize for the winner. Several artists submitted pictures of tranquil, peaceful scenes. But the picture that won the prize was of a raging storm, with wind blowing and rain falling. In the center of the picture, on a tree branch, a bird sat in total calm as the tumult raged around her. That is the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that comes no matter the circumstances of life, the peace that Jesus promises those who trust in him.
I wait for that kind of peace. I wait for it to enter my life, and the world around me, in the form of the child who comes.