People have different ideas about the definition of peace. For me, peace might entail having my work done for the day (laundry done and put away, the house is clean and fresh, the kitchen stocked, and maybe dinner is ready to go into the oven), children playing quietly and happily, husband happy and satisfied and on his way home, money in the bank to at least cover this month's bills. Everyone is rested and purring like a cat sunbathing in the window. When life occurs this way, I feel peaceful. Except that I don't. Or maybe I do, but it's quite temporary.
The fact is that things rarely go as we like. And when there isn't enough money in the bank, and I haven't had a full night's sleep for months, and nothing in the world is going to make a fussy Judah happy, and the house is really not up to my standards--if my peace is coming from the wrong place, I'm quite dissatisfied.
While I'm writing this, I'm thinking about how rare it is to find a blog about this sort of thinking. Somehow you always see pictures of my smiling babies and a beautiful (if I do say so myself) chicken pot pie coming out of the oven, but honestly, such a small portion of my life is represented in those photos. Sometimes I feel like I live the rest of my life preparing my kitchen and my kids so that I can take a quick shot of everything looking perfect so that I can post it on my blog. As a matter of fact, at this moment, I'm listening to my kids fight on either side of the bedroom door--Judah trying to get in, "Sissy" not letting him in, Judah screaming, "Sissy" yelling back, etc. I should probably go intervene. Blogging to resume shortly.
Okay, I'm back. Where was I? Oh yes, peace.
In my circles growing up, people always liked to say things like, "Just give it up to God." And what exactly does that mean? When I was pregnant with Charlie, Paul and I attended a Bradley class on natural childbirth. The Bradley method stresses normal breathing and relaxation. When in labor, I found out just how difficult it can be to relax when you feel like your uterus has turned against you and you just might actually die of pain. But even if a woman can't relax, her uterus is going to contract over and over again until that baby pushes her way out. The fact is learning to just give in to the contractions and letting go of all control is the easiest path through labor. My midwife, when watching me struggle through the most painful part of labor, gave me the instruction to just press my body into the mattress and relax. It was such a new feeling--this ACTIVE relaxation. The idea of "giving it up to God" feels very similar. It's not just passively giving up and caring less. Instead it is handing things over to God and then actively following his will, confident that His plan is best.
So I write all of this to say that peace is not in our circumstances. We are not promised happiness in this life. There will be financial struggles, there will be fussy kids sapping the last of a mom's energy, there will be cancer, there will even be death and loss of loved ones. There will be many unexpected heartaches. But there can be deep peace and even joy through our struggles. Peace is an inward understanding of who (and what) God is. My peace today comes from a God who loves me. Knowing peace is knowing that no matter how I fail, God loves me just as I am. It's knowing that God delights in me--that He created me with my quirks and that He actually loves them. That I don't need to earn His love--it's freely given. That even when I'm not looking to Him for peace, He is there to provide it. It's knowing that I have a home in Heaven, when this life is over. First John 4:8 says very simply, "God is love." That means that God loves me because it's what He is! He can't NOT love me!
How can I now be overwhelmingly ecstatic?!