I invite you to step into my peace. When it seems like everything around you is crumbling, and you feel overwhelmed, come and rest with me. Take a deep breath and lean into me. Listen to me tell you how much I love you and that no earthly problem can ever snatch you away. My steadfast love seems incomprehensible when everything seems to be falling apart, but I will never fail you. When it feels like your thoughts and emotions are getting the best of you, look to the cross.Philippians 4:7
Letters to the Beloved
The breaking of the second seal revealed the red horse. The second creature, with a loud voice, echoed the first saying, “Come.” The horse was frothy red like blood spilled upon the ground. I allowed the rider to steal peace from the earth as he wielded a great sword. The red horse, beloved, is violence and war, which stands in opposition to my kingdom.
People are often enamored by the vibrancy and power of the red horse. They come to believe that violence must be an appropriate way to establish justice. Look around you. Violence fills the world; the hoof prints of the red horse are everywhere. There are wars in every corner of the globe as nations go to battle. Violence fills your homes, your streets, and your very hearts. People use power and control to oppress, yet the people who hold power call their oppression “just.” Just war is a misnomer. There is no justice in committing violence against others.
Eugene Peterson wrote, “The perennial ruse is to glorify war so that we accept it as a proper means of achieving goals. But it is evil, and Christ opposes it. Christ does not sit on the red horse, ever.” Beloved, beware of becoming enamored by the red horse. Violence is not the way of my kingdom.
Revelation 6:3-4, Letters to the Beloved
With a surge of adrenaline waking them up, the eleven were ready for action. They said, “Lord, is now the time to strike with the sword?” Peter cut off the servant’s right ear. Jesus stopped the retaliation. Following Jesus is not the way of violence, but peace. He said, “That’s enough.” He approached the bleeding man and, touching his ear, restored him. He did not leave the servant to suffer, even though the man was part of the mob who had come to arrest him. My kingdom is always about restoring wholeness.Luke 22:49-51
Letters to the Beloved
Beloved, ponder this: My wisdom is countercultural. I want you to be undiluted by selfishness and worldliness. Strive for peace in your relationships, even when it gets hard. The world says that it is okay for you to be rough around the edges, but I want you to practice gentleness. I have made you rational and capable of reason. I want you to think carefully, knowing that my Spirit dwells in you and sharpens your thought. Listen to others with interest. Rather than beating others down with your arguments, build them up with gentle curiosity. When you find yourself disagreeing with others, be patient and merciful, just as I am with you. Do not just pretend to love, be sincere. Do not merely pretend to be fair; judge with impartiality. You will be amazed how much righteousness and serenity flow from your willingness to treat others with peace and gentleness.
-James 3:17-18, Letters to the Beloved
The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart…even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains…an uprooted small corner of evil.-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Yesterday, my cousin posted a news article about a woman who had repeatedly punched a 12 year old who was carrying a Trump sign while riding his bike. Thankfully, he reported what happened and it is currently being investigated. I wish I could say something like this crime surprised me, but it doesn’t, at least not anymore. Sadly, I also was not surprised at the comments. People were quick to write that this sort of behavior is “typical” of democrats and we “only hear of democrats doing crap like this.” I don’t know about you, but this sort of animosity fills my Facebook feed every day. I routinely have to resist rushing in to defend “my side” and I am not always successful.
Here’s the thing: The problem isn’t those people. It’s you. It’s me. When we physically attack people for carrying Trump (or Biden) signs, we reveal the evil within our own hearts, not theirs. When we say this sort of behavior is “typical of democrats” (or republicans), we convict ourselves, not them.
Friends, our self-righteousness and divisive attitudes are literally killing us. We make sweeping assumptions about the hearts and motives of people who think differently than we do. We presume that those people are evil, so by extension, we must be good. The consequence of this way of thinking is division, not love, and every single one of us is guilty.
Let me offer a few thoughts:
- When you feel compelled to share an article critical of those people, pause for a moment. Ask yourself, “Am I honoring their humanity?”
- When you feel angry about what those people have said or done, ask yourself, “In what ways do I do similar things?” Consider not only your actions, but your words and thoughts, which have a greater effect than you might imagine.
- When you want to respond to someone who thinks differently than you do, whether online or in person, practice the pause. Ask yourself, “Have I stopped to listen to what they are trying to say?” When we don’t try to listen and understand, we contribute to the hatred.
- Resist the urge to call those people names.
- Pray for peace, within the world and within yourself. If you have a hard time praying, consider reading the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi every day.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I was pondering this wonderful prayer often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. May it be the prayer of all of us.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
What are the characteristics of peace-filled people? How do they show up with others? Assuredly, there are many traits that could be entertained, but let me suggest five that not coincidentally use “peace” for their acronym.
Presence. A person of peace is not continually distracted, but rather stays in the moment. In conversation, others feel attended to and important. In a world where all of us have ten thousand internal and external distractions, those who can set those aside and become present are a gift.
Equanimity. A principal construct in Buddhism, equanimity has to do with mental evenness, even in the midst of turmoil. It must not be thought of as disinterest or aloofness, but rather I tend to think of it as unflappability.
Amicable. Amicability is characterized by friendliness and a desire for goodwill. Even in the midst of conflict or disagreement, it is evident that amicable people desire the best for others, whatever that may be.
Calmness. A person of peace possesses calmness, which is similar, but not identical to equanimity. In a calm person’s presence, people perceive a sense of settledness and tranquility and the freedom to catch their breath.
Empathy. An empathetic person is able to communicate emotional withness to others by attuning to their emotions, thoughts, and actions. Empathy is not demeaning or simply feeling sorry for another, but a desire to join with another.
Do you desire to be a person of peace? Be present to others. Seek to be calm, kind, and even tempered with a desire to love and understand.
Do you still need a New Year’s resolution? Let me offer a suggestion. Listen with generosity and curiosity to those who think and believe differently than you do. Read and listen to things “outside of your camp.” Do not pass along angry, hate filled rhetoric. In fact, when you find yourself drawn in to it, turn away to something whole and beautiful. Build others up. Seek to be an agent of reconciliation where it is possible, and a person of peace where it feels impossible. Each and every one of us can choose to pursue wholeness or disintegration in how we live and relate with others. Which will you choose in 2020?
Write 31 days, day 17
Writing Prompt: Pause
“What happened to my day?” I wondered aloud as I walked through the nurse’s station at quarter past four. How could it possibly be this late? The day was not particularly overburdened patient-wise, but I’ve been at my desk for over nine hours, minus the brief visit with my wife over lunch. Patients were seen and reports were written, but without a break to catch my breath.
Normally, I take time to pause. Before the workday starts, I sit in the corner chair, eyes closed, and ponder Christ’s presence. Later in the morning, or perhaps mid-afternoon, I take a walk. A slow walk. I saunter. Amble. I listen to the leaves and watch the birds. I feel the breeze upon my neck or the sun upon my face. I breathe. Life is better when I am not hurrying through it.
For consideration: take five minutes to pause today. Or thirty.