basic advent, week two: we can bring peace
2020 is the year that all of the Slagell girls got combat boots. Yes, it's trendy. Yes, it's completely within our preferred style vibe. Yes, it brings me back to a certain nostalgia from my teenage years. But more than that, this has felt like a year that I needed to armor up.
There have been an unusual amount of areas where I've felt attacked this year. My integrity has been questioned both publicly and privately in ways that I found shocking and extremely painful. I have felt defensive of both myself and my family in ways I was unprepared for. I have been overwhelmed with conflict. People have been just plain mean, to me and to those I love, both publicly and privately. And that's just all my personal disquietude. That doesn't include dealing with a grief and anxiety filled pandemic and a summer of reckoning with racism and an election season that was miserable for those who want everybody to just get along.
My reaction to all of this angst initially felt at odds with my internal values, and thus this week's theme was a difficult one for me to come to terms with. Peace is a thing for me. There is nothing I value more in my life than internal and external peace. To the point of unhealthiness, as I am certain those closest to me will affirm. (I will refrain from sharing the conversation where my eldest daughter lovingly and laughingly eviscerated all of my coping mechanisms in one fell swoop last week.)
I'm a lover of comfort, it turns out. I want peace to just arrive to me magically without any effort of my own, because inertia is my natural stance. But this week says bring peace. That indicates action. Bringing means I'm doing something about it.
How do I reconcile trying to bring peace in a world where all I want to do is suit up for battle? Aren't those things antithetical at heart?
I'm gonna get a little Jesus-y in this post, so fair warning. I hope you'll forgive me this indulgence even if you don't share my beliefs, particularly in this season. But this week, I've was reminded of this Scripture passage that is traditionally referred to as the "Armor of God". It's found in Ephesians, and Paul (the writer) analogizes a suit of armor to all of these qualities and strategies and characteristics of someone who follows Jesus. There are things like the "shield of faith" and the "belt of truth" and the "helmet of salvation". And then, in the middle of all of those pieces of literal armor: "As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace."
Shoes? Like...perhaps...combat boots?
When I put on shoes in my house, my kids, without fail, say, "Where are you going?" Shoes indicate I'm ready for something. I don't typically just wear my combat boots around the house. It means I'm going somewhere, not just sitting on my couch. Maybe that's where my perspective should change. What if I first brought peace to my own heart? That's when it flows out. That's when I become ready to proclaim the gospel of peace - when I put on my shoes at home, even if all I'm doing is sitting on my couch.
Bringing peace this year has not looked like what I thought it might look like. My preference would be for it to look like a household of delight and harmony where I sit in my beautifully decorated, impeccably tidy living room listening to my favorite music and drinking a cup of tea and reading a delightful book while my beautiful children recline in their already-made beds and read inspirational and educational books all while they shower one another with quiet compliments. My preferred type of peace is adjective laden and utterly unattainable.
Instead, this year's peace has looked like leaving the community facebook groups and unfollowing certain friends to protect my mental health. It's looked like decluttering my office so I can do my work in a semi-tidy space. It's looked like putting energy into certain friendships and intentionally letting others go. It's looked more like saying no than saying yes. It's looked like sharing some essential oils with a friend before a stressful meeting. It's looked like emailing my representatives and voting early. It's looked like lacing up my most comfortable sneakers so I could march city blocks with my family, our handmade cardboard signs in hand. It's looked like spending time in meditation instead of with Netflix.
The scripture today is a portion of last week's. Mary doesn't mince words when it comes to the upside-down nature of real peace. A call against oppression. A call to change. A call of solidarity to the poor and powerless. The mother of Jesus comes in fierce with this declaration. I hope to follow her example, but to be honest, if I'm not putting on the shoes of peace just to wear around my house, I'm not certain I'm going to be to walk that peace out into the world around me well.
Bringing peace is active, and it starts within. We can make the choices that lead to peace in our lives. We can turn off the news and turn on Christmas music. We can choose to let our kids keep their rooms "half-cleaned" so we can watch movies with them on weekends. We can de-clutter the space we spend the most time in so we're not distracted when we're trying to accomplish something OR relax. We can choose to advocate and act rather than merely post on social media or clicking the heart buttons. We can choose to hit the streets in solidarity with those who need it. We can be the peace-bringers rather than the peace-robbers.
We can bring peace. It starts with us.
And Mary sang this song:
“My soul is ecstatic, overflowing with praises to God!
My spirit bursts with joy over my life-giving God!
For he set his tender gaze upon me, his lowly servant girl.
And from here on, everyone will know
that I have been favored and blessed.
The Mighty One has worked a mighty miracle for me;
holy is his name!
Mercy kisses all his godly lovers,
from one generation to the next.
Mighty power flows from him
to scatter all those who walk in pride.
Powerful princes he tears from their thrones
and he lifts up the lowly to take their place.
Those who hunger for him will always be filled,
but the smug and self-satisfied he will send away empty.
Because he can never forget to show mercy,
he has helped his chosen servant, Israel,
Keeping his promises to Abraham
and to his descendants forever.”
What do you need to let go of to make space for peace? Is it clutter? Is it certain relationships? Is it digital space?
Where are your shoes of peace taking you? Is it to nature? Is it to therapy? Is it to advocacy? Is it to solidarity? Is it to simply quiet?
Get rid of something. Put something in its place. Enjoy the peace that follows.
God of Peace,
We feel under attack and at unease. Help us to remember that peace doesn't come through magic, but through our own steps in the right direction. May we gear up with the shoes of peace so that we may bring peace into our own lives and those around around us.
"Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me."
(words by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller)
*I’ll be showing up here on the next few Sundays before Christmas talking about what we can do and how we can show up in the middle of a pandemic to prepare for a God who showed up for us in the flesh, here, in a broken world. Don’t want to miss a post? Sign up at the link below to get it straight into your inbox. You’re not into it? Just skip the Sunday posts. Or maybe? Read it? Consider that it’s all a little easier and more grace-full than what you think.