Peace is often a difficult concept to grasp—even though it’s something we hear about our whole lives. Paradoxically, peace, usually, feels like something we have to fight or struggle for. It’s the struggle of empaths and justice-seekers. A struggle of bringing an elusive concept into actuality. Unprecedented times often lead us to reflect on this kind of philosophical content that some may call “idealistic”. Must we understand every facet of peace before we bring it to fruition in our lives and the lives of others? Are we always searching for peace or is it only in the moments of significant unrest? These are the things I’ve explored during this pandemic and International Peace Month.
Webster’s Dictionary defines peace as “a state of tranquility or quiet, such as: freedom from civil disturbance […]”. This seems to describe peace as unattainable and outside of our control. Like it’s the responsibility of others to be made silent for the sake of our own experience of ‘peace’. Rarely have I encountered a time when there wasn’t a ‘civil disturbance’ present. Sometimes the disturbance is in the room with me and other times in a country far away. Either way, there always seem to be conflicts and distractions with loud, and often sorrowful, voices. Describing peace in this way weighs me down with the reality of my inability to experience or bring-about true peace. But then I remember…
“Peace like a river”
– “It is Well With My Soul,” Horatio Spafford
“Peace like a river”— gives me pause. On the surface, it seems like a simple metaphor. How powerful to think that peace is something that washes over us. That we can still feel peace even when the circumstances of the world are anything but peaceful. Yes, peace can sometimes look like quiet stillness, but more often than not it’s simply security. It’s knowing that despite the many turns and rocky rapids we may experience, we’re safe in the midst of it all.
Šālôm [Hebrew word for ‘peace’]: “the notion of completeness, fulfillment, wholeness, security and well-being.”
True peace, šālôm, is a state of being. A permanent agreement of serenity, not based on outside influence, but on an inner understanding of our identity. It can’t be conjured or curated by the imperfect, ever-distracted nature of a human. The ‘peace’ we seek is a mere glimpse of the full picture of šālôm that naturally overflows from within when we come to know and trust who we are created to be. Šālôm can exist regardless of external circumstances.
International Peace Month was created as a time of reflection after World War I. In August 1926, a peace gathering of 4,000 people from 30 countries came together to study international peace work in the wake of the 20 million deaths from the Great War. Since then, the world has seen 17 major international wars, not including “conflicts” or civil wars. It’s safe to say that “World Peace” is not yet actualized, and perhaps it never will be. I am convinced that, despite continued civil unrest, there is an inner peace that comes from the security of knowing who you are and being loved for it. Loved by your Creator and those around you. Frankly, we often need the unprecedented times to discover and experience true peace in the first place.
So, I’ll be seeking out the mundane moments and enduring the moments of unrest to experience the overflow of peace washing over me, like a river. Knowing that even amidst uncertainty and times when everything seems too loud, I am stable, secure, and wholly loved. May you also discover that kind of peace today too.
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