Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Shalom aleikhem

Peace be upon you.

There were only two of them.  Placidly pacing the sidewalk, placards held aloft with only their cold-pinked noses, cheerful eyes, and unfettered smiles protruding from cinched parkas.  The snow fell like down from heavy, goose clouds flocked over both mountain and city.  The world was muted with thick beauty; edges softened by the crystalline blanket of white.  Flakes landed on their lashes, coating them with purity and gemstones. 

There were only two.  Because the snow heralded more to come; the winter storm bearing down on the city as its inhabitants scurried to the welcome warmth of hearth and home.  And ignored the two women on the sidewalk. 

The light stopped us as we, too, hurried about, hoping to make it back up the mountain before the snow became too much.  Sitting there in a car full of family and agendas, I felt my shoulders fall as I wrestled with what I wanted the focus of my year to be.  Stillness?  Silence?  Listening? 

God, please just tell me what to do.  I want to want the same things You do. 

She turned as we pulled alongside.  Her smile free and open.   She lifted an arm to wave at no one in particular, our eyes caught one another, and her face brightened.  I read her sign.  Jarred, I examined her colleague’s.  One word.  There on the corner in the midst of the falling snow, the week after Christmas, mere days into the new year, one word:


Not peace for Israel.  Not peace between two opposing factions.  Not peace as a commodity in a consumerist culture.  Just peace

And in that moment, my soul was filled.  After all my half-joking statements that it would be easier if God would just overnight me the memo, He did what He does: exceed even my pettiest expectations.  He sent a sign.  Literally.  Struck by the audacity of His love, I put the pieces together, like bookends to my question.  The week before Christmas our family had been given the opportunity to present the readings and light the Advent candle at our church. 

          It had been the candle of Peace.               

A chiasm of words, with the Prince of Peace at their points; God was answering my prayer before I knew that I was praying it. 

{read: John 20: 1-29}

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, 
came and stood among them and said, 
Peace be with you!’

He comes to us.

Jesus seeks us out in our hiding; breaking through our barriers of fear to prove to us the glorious, miraculous, life-altering Truth of His resurrection.  And He doesn’t do it with shame or condemnation or even reluctant resignation.  He does it with Shalom – with peace – and for peace, by bringing His peace to us and speaking it over us as His greeting and blessing.  


A few weeks before, I stared at the screen and wept.  I had, not as immediately or dramatically as she described, been close to giving up a piece of hope.*  There had been much gained in the past six months; but there had been much loss, too.  As if a life is a static thing.  A self-contained universe with fixed matter, so that in acquisition there must be release to maintain balance.  And with each loss, slivers of hope fluttered away.  So that as I read her words, I asked aloud:

                Where is my blue morph butterfly?  
                When do I get a right-here-right-now sign of Your love? 

The answer didn’t come from above.  It was truth already settled in me: Christ is sufficient.  His love and hope are alive within me, even when I can’t feel them.  I plucked up and carried on as dawn met dusk again and again.  Because that is what living is.

But as is true with so much of life, looking back I can see the scope and shape of His movements in my days.  Unlike the beloved author, I wasn’t Mary, seeking her Lord at His last known resting place, looking for hope out in the open – for herself and her friends.  I wasn’t on the road, demanding an explanation for a rolled-away stone, and then fetching others to this glorious revelation.  So I couldn’t find a butterfly with open wing to give flight to hope.

I, rather, was the disciples; penned up with fear and failure.  Tucked away from that which might harm, unable to apprehend the miracle of Hope.  Eyes weary with the walls around so that I could not move.  Until, with bookended signs, Jesus walks in.  Through doors locked with fear, to a table laden with failure and grieving.  Declaring peace – eirehnh, shalom – upon those within. 

            Peace be upon you!

He always seeks out those He loves.  He does not chastise.  He offers His peace: His wholeness, His harmony, His security, His prosperity, His righteousness.  He brings it in to those who have shuttered themselves away.  He gives them shalom so that they can be His peace to a world in so much need.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrow like sea billows roll; 
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say:
It is well, it is well with my soul.**

Peace.  That is my focus for the year.  The signs have quite literally pointed the way.  And my soul rejoices, as though Heaven’s gates have been flung open.    

Delirious Farewell Tour: Did you feel the mountains tremble?

*Anne Voskamp, "When You're This Close to Giving Up Hope," at A Holy Experience.  accessed on 1/8/14 at 10:13 mst.
**It Is Well with My Soul, written by Horatio Spafford. 

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