|ps from ps:|
Had a great run yesterday in beautiful WNY fall weather filled with sunshine. But I had an even better conversation while running.
As our run began, we passed by a church sign that said: “Healed people, Heal people.” It’s a great invitation to church but an even better conversation starter on a lunchtime run. We guessed that the opposite is true as well: “Hurt people, hurt people.” Then my running partner started telling me about a book he’s reading. Its focus – our search for peace in the midst of daily life. I thought – That’s not one edition, that’s a full set of encyclopedias! (Millennials and younger – Google 1970’s to see pics of “sets of encyclopedias”….although I’ve probably lost your attention by this point anyways. I’ll post a pic on The Instagram).
The search for peace. What a challenge! Most of the time, we can name the easier moments early and late in the day when the chaos is over. It’s easier when you’re done with the day sitting at home with a glass of wine/beer, finally done, talking with that person to whom you are related by marriage, kicking back in the cozy slippers with the dog laying next to you on the floor. But that’s only about 10 minutes at the end of the day!
The search of peace becomes way more challenging to live into DURING the day. With the range of stressors hitting our windshield at 74 mph, how do we live into peace during those moments.
We realized together that this movement toward peace is tricky and needs practice, but there may be a few key components that will help the process. It’s especially needed when we’re letting the stressors overwhelm us already. So maybe, it’s that much more important that we hone our skills for this search earlier rather than later.
Paul (writer of a bunch of New Testament books and starter of a bunch churches which those books are named after) said to his early, growing, sometimes stressed out churches: “May the peace of God which passes all human understanding, keep (like guarding something) your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So maybe that’s the start. What is God’s love and peace inviting us to “keep” ourselves in and what is it “guarding” us from?
First, when some event/incident/thing causes stress in our day, we have to remember that the event is just that – an event. We have to name it. It helps to be self aware enough to feel/sense what this event is doing to us, what emotions it brings us and what it triggers. God didn’t place us in a vacuum. Life happens. These events are neither good nor bad until we recognize that they are affecting us and assign value to them.
Second, we have a choice on how we want to move through it. The stressor doesn’t control us, get to define us or steal energy that we don’t want to let it. Our choice in that moment is to decide, how do we want to let ourselves experience this stress? Because if Paul is right, we are being guarded by God. Guarded by the love we were given in our birth and baptism. Bad things happen in the world, but because of that love, they don’t get to control or define us due to God’s naming us as a child of God. That’s our primary and most important name. That name allows us to say: “OK, Mr. Event. How do I want to move through this as a child of God? Will I give into fear, which leads to regret? Or will I grab hold of peace NOW and not let go. so I don’t have to wait for the cozy slippers to come on later to do it.”
My primary definition is: Steve, child of God. That definition comes with undeserved grace, love and forgiveness. Then there’s a long list following that: Steve – husband, dad, son, pastor, chaplain, friend, Bills and Sabres fan. (OK, on game days, I’m ashamed to say that order might be different.). But if I define myself by my team and they lose, that stress more easily controls me. Or at my job, and I’m told I’m terrible at it, that stress more easily controls me.
But if we start with child of God and live into all our other rolls and jobs with that as our baseline, it keeps our hearts and minds in God’s love for us and the world around us.
And third, forgive yourself when you don’t get it right and you will feel that peace in live time. Jesus told us as much! He told the disciples if you carry around the burden of your brokenness or the brokenness of others, the only person it weighs down is you!
This past Sunday at St. Paul’s, as I am prone to due (ask Michelle) I took a joke to far and messed up. I was telling people what the financial commitment cards were and that when they prayerfully filled them out, it was just something for them and to help the Finance Team plan. No one was going to show up at their door to beat them up if they were behind on their pledge and as I did it, I used names that stereotyped a group of people. It was wrong and I knew it as soon as it came out. And I’m very sorry that I did that because this is the slippery slope that has caused large groups of people to have stereotypes built up around them, “defining them,” and I need to call that out. Especially when it’s me. I ask for your forgiveness.
Last night, one member of our Cultural Awareness Team that was there Sunday texted me and called me out on it. She was clear, loving, graceful and forgiving. I apologized to her and I apologize to you. But I also had to forgive myself and feel the grace and peace she was offering and sense the grace and peace that God was offering. That “event” could have stressed me out, and clearly I handled it wrong on Sunday. But now, I can add it to the list of times when God sends people to teach you, so you can be better in the future.
+Name the event/stressor and realize how it’s affecting you.
+Make the choice to move through it defining yourself first as a child of God: saint and sinner, loved and graced.
+Forgive yourself along the way and sense the peace.
And may the peace of God which passes all human understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Lord, guide us on this search for peace. Amen
Be well, safe and blessed,