Peace Not From the World

Peace Not From the World

Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful.

John 14:27

I feel obliged to keep somewhat informed about the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and as I was looking on a news website, I saw a link that said “Should I be panicking?” My students, naturally, are buzzing with news about the spreading virus and beneath the nervous excitement, some are truly concerned about getting sick. It is understand that fear should start to set in when it seems like very little time passes between various people mentioning something else about the coronavirus.

Apart from practical common sense attempts to not get sick, there isn’t much I can do. Yet similar to how listening endlessly to political news reports can fill me with unrest, countless stories and updates about the virus can begin to make me stressed. Jesus, despite showing concern for the poor and the suffering, doesn’t want us to be pools of despair, overcome with anxiety and worry about what may happen. We have an intellect that we ought to use, but He doesn’t want us to be frozen in isolating fear. Christ came to set us free, even from the slavery to fear.

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Pacem in Terris

This September 11th is one of sifting back through old memories and reliving as an adult the stories of my youth.  The feelings have a strength fourteen years after the fact that is surprising.  As an 11-year old, the gravity of the situation was not lost on me.  Yet what was unknown or scary to me then has been replaced by a deeper empathy, sensitivities that are born through maturity and growing more into a woman’s heart.  Even at the time, the events of September 11th, 2001 impacted me greatly because of my father’s profession.

I live in the Midwest and before that day, I didn’t know what the World Trade Center even was.  Nobody I really knew even lived on the east coast and so my feelings were based on the stories I heard, wondering what was happening in our country, and recognizing that if I had lived in New York, my life might be very different.
For all of my youth, I was proud of the fact that my father was a firefighter in a nearby city.  On September 11th, as I saw firefighters respond for their duties, I felt a kinship that is born of knowing your beloved firefighter would race into that building right along with them.  The stories of firefighters climbing dozens of flights in full gear, directing people to the exit, telling them they were going to make it out as they continued to climb higher, reduced me to tears.  It didn’t take too much of an imagination for me to picture the same being true of my father.  Fire engine crews being absolved by the department chaplain before entering the burning building.  With hearts beating wildly in their chests, a brotherhood of firefighters carrying out the wounded.  That would have been my dad, too.

This year I didn’t just recall 9/11, I returned to the news footage, I heard the confusion in people’s voice, I re-read stories of heroism.  My heart felt again that ache and my patriotism was again aroused.  Because I remember after 9/11 how the country was bonded together and how “God bless America” was not uttered as a passing comment but as something we infused in our very marrow.  In a country that now daily bleeds division in terms of political party, religious creed, color, and wealth, it was refreshing to go back to a day of devastation and remember the unity that is forged through suffering and pain.  The 11-year old Trish wept for people she had never met, for families she never knew.  It was not anger that drew us together, even though there was a decent amount of that, but it was a mutual love of our own country and the experience of communal woundedness.

I watched most of the CNN live coverage of 9/11.  Story after story, I read about firefighters who offered themselves for those they had a responsibility to protect.  For my students, this is an event they learn about in history class, something foreign to them that they are told is important.  Yet for me it is a defining moment of the age I grew up in.  It is one of those memorable historic events that makes an impression on young and old souls alike.

Despite my love for my nation, conflicted and tormented though it be at times, I cannot simply stop at recalling 9/11.  I must extend this awareness of suffering and warfare to those around the world.  The Syrian refugees who are fleeing, the conflict in the Middle East, the impact of radical Islam on their neighboring Christians.  September 11th is but one of the instances of humanity willingly inflicting pain on humanity.  On that day of national remembrance, I led a prayer with my students, pleading for peace for the whole world.  It isn’t as though there are just wounds that are fourteen years old, there are daily wounds being made, blood still pouring out, “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying…from the ground.” (Gen. 4:10)  And the Lord is asking, “What have you done?”  It is not enough to recall, we must respond.

Peace is fervently needed.  Our world is aching for peace, our country’s deep-seated tension is pleading for peace, our families are battle-weary, and our very souls are hungry for internal unity.  Global peace is only attained through the soul-peace being achieved by each person.  When we experience honesty and integrity in the most difficult areas of our life.  When I cease to battle against the Lord of my soul and seek to understand my very self in way that may seem frightening or off-putting.

As we sift back through the memories of old hurts, of the traumas of humanity, may we also experience a renewed desire for peace and hearts of compassion to encounter those in their war-torn moments.  May our yearning for union override our wanting to win at all costs.  May the Queen of Peace pour grace and mercy upon our world that will bring us to unwavering peace, starting with our own souls. 

Oh, the humanity!

I have a secret that I would love to share with you.  It may shock you and take you totally by surprise, but it is something you should probably come to terms with now.

We are human.

It is true.  With all of the beautiful messiness that is involved with being a part of this human race, we sometimes forget this truth.  While it doesn’t mean that everyone is excused for anything wrong that they do simply on the grounds that they are a member of fallen humanity, it does change one’s perspective of the matter.  Through reading another blog I’ve been introduced to the author Heather King and I must say she is altering the way I think. 

She gets to the heart of things and tends to present things in a way that is both naked (i.e. uncomfortable and unvarnished) and refreshing.  One of the things that was emphasized in a book of hers that I was reading was that we are a beautiful mess, we are broken, we are fallen but that it is because of all of these things that we should embrace life.  In all of the sufferings and troubles, we are alive and that is something that she wouldn’t trade for anything.

The chance to suffer.  We don’t typically approach suffering with a sense that we are glad to have this experience.  Very recently I experienced the death of my grandpa.  It was a time in which I was invited to enter into suffering.  Yet while I am grieving, I have also been witnessing the ways that my family is dealing with their grief.  My observations have lead to many more prayers for my family.  The raw grief I see in some of my family causes me to wonder if I am experiencing this so much differently because I have a strong relationship with the Lord or if it is because I loved him less or if it is because I am allowing myself to remain detached.  I’m not quite certain which it is, to be honest.  The brokenness of the human person has again been revealed to me.  I view this not with a sense of condemnation but rather with a sorrow at the human condition.  We are all reckless wanderers without the cross of Christ grounding us. 

Welcome to this broken, sinful, beautiful, wonderful world filled with humans who are the same.  There is this hole within each of us.  Hollywood tells us that our weight or clothes can fill this hole.  Romantic movies tell us that our hole will be filled by that perfect man/woman we are waiting to find.  Other facets of the modern world encourage money, material gain, people, or feelings to fill this void we have. 

You cannot complete me.  I cannot complete you.  Whenever I get married, I will never want to hear from that man (as wonderful, charming, and romantic though he may be) that he completes me.  He does not.  I am a mere human.  I need something greater than me to give sense and purpose to my life, to ground me when the world is hopelessly and desperately spinning out of control, to love me when I am acting in ways that are completely unlovable, to understand me when I do not even know what I understand, to fight for me when I am giving up, and to reveal Truth to me when I am believing lies.  It is unfair to expect any human to do all of these things.  We are flawed human beings, but we are beautiful.  We are beautiful not in our brokenness but in the ways God desires to use our brokenness to bring about wholeness, to cause greater healing.  These deep needs that I have can only be truly fulfilled by Our Lord.

As a human, I will fail and make mistakes.  I will judge others, I will sin, I will hurt others, and I will fail to be forgiving.  As a human, I will let you down and I will fail to live up to the standards of a Christian.  But humans also make big comebacks.  I’ve seen them within my family and I’ve seen them within myself. 

God has a soft spot for humanity.  He knows what we are through and through.  He became man to reveal to us this great love He has.  But He is the one person (or three persons?) that we can rely on entirely, who can fill the hole in our hearts, who has lived in this beautiful and messy world and managed to make sense of it all by an act of extreme foolish love.  The cross–an act of folly that is the only true sense in the world.

Embark on the adventure of life today striving to give others the benefit of the doubt.  Try to see the beautiful ridiculousness of this world and to rejoice in the glories of humanity.  And then draw near to the cross of Christ, pray to each person in the Blessed Trinity, and lay the strongest foundation that you possibly can.  We are human.  God understands that.  Nevertheless, strive to be the saint God calls you to be.  And let’s learn to love like Him. 

Romans 5:8