"I just want some peace and quiet!!", said our mother and father, likely, when we were little girls and running around the house.
"Let there be peace on earth" says a Christmas hymn
"Peace, man!" said many people in the 70s (....or so I've heard, anyway)
"Peace out!" says my dear girlfriend who is also an Episcopal priest
Our Gospel reading in church this morning was from Galatians 6. My favorite verse talks about "Let us not grow weary of doing what is right". Doing what is right is part of what brings me peace in my personal and professional life. So much of the world is not peaceful right now. People on one side of any issue seem to always be in the faces of the people on the other side of the issue...and definitely not in any sort of peaceful way. How did Gandhi truly abide by his words "Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances"? How did Martin Luther King, Jr. think, “World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew"? We can't even agree on the words in our Constitution.
There were 70 people who Jesus apparently told to go be peace-makers, going door to door, saying, "Peace to this house". I got goosebumps all up and down my arms and legs when Father Brian told us, right before communion, that there were exactly 70 people in the sanctuary today. Good grief, I suppose that is one of those God-winks that says I am called upon to be a peacemaker. The problem is, of course, we can't give away what we don't have. This holds true for so much in our lives. Even the flight attendants on the airplane tell us this...every single flight. We have to put on our own oxygen mask before we can help others put theirs on. The cool thing, I think, is that once we have our own peace (or oxygen mask---make your own analogy, and tell me about them because I LOVE analogies), we tend to want to help others with their own.
Two weeks ago, Dave and I put up a wall sticker/decal (don't even get me started on how much that process almost wrecked with my peace) that has the verse "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). It is on our mantel, right below the television, so our eyes are almost constantly on it. If we are truly acting on this Biblical verse, how then can we allow our peace to be taken from us, despite the temporary worries and frustrations of this world? Well, we do allow that to happen at times, precisely because we are human. What gets under my skin may be totally different from what gets under yours, and I don't know about you, but I have to work daily on the ability to "get peaceful with God". I literally have to kneel down beside the bed (where I am actually nose to nose with one or both of our yellow Labs) and pray every single morning (this is not an easy feat when I am on the road, traveling for work, staying in a hotel whose carpet may or may not be the cleanest in all the land---but I do it anyway) to allow me to be an instrument of peace. What does that mean to you? To me, it means that I need to be a voice of reason, not anger. We simply cannot bully people into believing as we do. I know this, as I have tried it a time or two in my life. But isn't that precisely what seems to be happening in our country the last several years? We try so hard to get our own point across, people give up on listening to us, and we miss the opportunity to possibly meet in the middle. We wind up losing our own peace by trying to get people to buy what we are selling.
I tell my graduate students who are working to become school leaders that there will be many days that they will feel as though they have to "sell" a new program to their stakeholders. I caution that instead of bullying people into something (which never works anyway), modeling the peaceful way toward change is likely the way which will work best.
No matter what, someone has to stay peaceful in this deluge of conflict and adversity. In the 1989 movie "Immediate Family", Glenn Close's character is talking to the surrogate mother they have chosen to carry their baby. She says the secret to a good marriage is "...only one person gets to be crazy at a time". Okay, obviously, it has been a minute since that movie came out, and it happens to have been three years before I would marry Dave. However, that quote has stuck with me since I heard it, and I totally believe it. It's that way with peace. If someone in my life is not acting peacefully, I have no business wreaking more havoc until both of us are in a state of chaos.
So, where does your peace come from? Some might say: church, God, their own Higher Power, marriage, love for children, work, prayer, being in nature, spiritual sayings, reading, gardening, and the list would go on and on. All of those besides gardening help me. Gardening actually stresses me out. Trust me...I want beautiful flowers and plants in my yard; I just know me---I don't have the patience or fortitude to make it happen (sorry to my Mother who had the greenest thumb of most anyone I know), myself. I desperately need outside help in this area.
If I truly believe that I have been called to be a peace-maker, I need to remember to help do that in the communities in which I live and work. I am blessed to work in communities all over the world, helping school leaders and educators hone their craft as I hone my own. My oxygen mask is not always completely functioning, but I know this to be true: when I hear words from even one of my workshop participants that make me reflect on why I am in the education profession, I am re-charged and filled up with the air of peace. Then, perhaps, I can do the same for others.
So, again, where does your peace come from? I pray that you find it today and spread the good news that peace is more preferable to conflict and unrest.