When is the last time you felt at peace?
In different seasons of life, being at peace has meant different things, but as Americans, I think we typically define peace as a time of rest. I can think to this past weekend when I spent time in Door County (the little thumb of Wisconsin). We hiked in Cave Point Park, where the waves of Lake Michigan crash into dramatic limestone cliffs. Feeling the waves rumble under my feet and watching the water spray into the air was a welcome stress reliever.
The new CVM theme for this year comes from Isaiah 52:7- “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
As I study the concept of peace, I realize that my own feelings of rest in a shoreline park are only a small glimpse of what peace really means.
In fact, I’ve often wondered how the “new me” (a mom) can be reconciled with my old definition of peace. I no longer have the time to spend leisurely weeding the garden, reading a novel, or knitting, like the “old me” used to. Sometimes, this has made me feel unsettled.
In reading an article in The New York Times about motherhood, this quote stuck out: “When women find themselves feeling lost somewhere between who they were before motherhood and who they think they should be now, many worry that something is terribly wrong, when in fact this discomfort is absolutely common.”
The article talks about this feeling of the guilt of motherhood- we all make challenging and sometimes impossible choices. There’s a juggling act between give and take, and it’s uncomfortable to feel two opposing things at the same time. It goes on to say, “Most of the time, motherhood is not good or bad, it’s both good and bad. It’s important to learn how to tolerate, and even get comfortable with the discomfort of ambivalence.”
Motherhood is so much of this, and we don’t talk about it often enough. Likewise, my definition of peace in life has evolved. I’ve now realized that peace is an internal feeling the Lord gives me, in the midst of my daily circumstances. Peace can happen in that quiet moment I have before my coffee gets cold, but it also happens when my toddler is having a difficult time, and I manage to remain calm in the face of chaos.
Peace is choosing to resolve a hurtful situation in a thoughtful way, instead of reacting with your own upset feelings, and making it worse.
Peace is bringing a bowl full of berries to a potluck instead of some extravagant baked good the “old me” would bring, and knowing the people you meet will still be thankful and fed.
Peace is letting go of the notion that I can do it all, and releasing my sense of control to the Lord, who needed to have that control anyway.
I wrote a student devotional earlier this month on the theme verse I listed above (Isaiah 52:7), and my entry was focused on the Hebrew “shalom”. For in this verse, even though the English distills it down to “peace”, the original Hebrew is considerably different. Shalom comes from a root word meaning “wholeness, completion, wellness, or perfection”.
So, the sense of internal peace in the midst of chaos harkens back to the biblical uses of shalom, more than it does our English concept of peace. Believing in Christ does not mean that we won’t face difficulties. It does mean that we have the peace of God dwelling within us, and we can face difficulty with that perspective. We can be a force for shalom in this chaotic world, and point others toward the hope we have in Christ.
That hope is what I wish to share with my students and veterinarians. When they are in the midst of rigorous exams or clinical practice, and can’t see the light, I want to bring it to them. That way, they can be empowered to do what Paul shares with us in Romans 10:14-15, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”.
May the peace of the Lord be with you, in the ordinary, the restful, and the chaotic moments. In other words, may it be with you always.