“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
If you asked me even five months ago what I thought peace meant, I summed it up as “the absence of conflict.” In fact, a quick search on Google backed me up on this. My husband also cheered this idea in spades. He loves an atmosphere where everyone gets along (how one Facebook friend defined it), especially us. It’s like heaven to him. Having a house with four very unique and spirited children did not lend itself to this. The constant conflict and fighting sent us to our beds exhausted many nights. I would mutter to myself (and sometimes scream loudly to my kids which, if you take a second, is pretty ironic), “Just a few moments of peace is all I’m asking!! Is it too much?” I know I don’t have to talk any further without a bunch of nods of the head, muttered “mm-hmms” and loud “AMENS!”
Whether it’s the constant arguing of politicians and political analysts on “news” shows, gut-wrenching war across our world, bickering among children or family members over the latest “who-knows-what,” co-workers disagreeing over how a project needs to be done, or late-into-the-night discord (or should I say straight-up fights) among spouses, it is just plain tiring. No wonder we want some peace. Some quiet. Some “everyone-just-get- along-please” moments. We are saturated with it all day long.
Sorry for the diversion. Back to the blog post. I think you understand my point.
To combat it and try to find some measure of inner calm, I find myself doing one of four things: fighting, running, avoiding, or just standing there with a blank stare not knowing what to do next. This is the natural response from our human bodies when we feel threatened and overwhelmed. It’s our “lizard brain” (as I like to refer to the amygdala) doing what it can in the moment when the adrenaline rush takes over to protect us. Psychologists refer to these responses as fight, flight, faint or freeze.
As I very feisty and passionate individual, I naturally gravitate to fighting. As we all know, this does nothing to help. It escalates the issue and then the whole house is in an uproar, hurt and angry. It becomes a mess. Allen, on the other hand, is drawn toward fleeing. He shuts down, gets quiet and goes into another room. Our kids vary on the spectrum, with some fighting, some getting quiet, some going to their room to watch TV or sleep, and some utterly dumb-founded, not knowing what to do. It makes for a little bit of a “not-so-peaceful” house.
ENTER COUNSELING and the beginning of understanding that although, in the moment, those responses are normal, they don’t restore harmony. We are working from brokenness not health.
ENTER BOOK, As We Forgive (Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda) by Catherine Clare Larson, suggested to us by our group leader before we head to this beautiful country to dig a well in September (HUGE SHOUT OUT AND MUST READ).
ENTER VACATION with family members (nine people plus baby for seven days). Arguments and behavior patterns and all that good stuff. (You know what I mean?!) I figured out that nine people make up 36 different relationships. That’s enough to start a war.
RE-ENTER BOOK. Reminder that all of the above are really just shattered shalom (the fancy Hebrew word for peace).
I have always believed that shalom had the same meaning of peace that I had in my head. Come to find out I am missing something. A huge thing. And it just might really make the difference in my own little world with my own little group of people. But it also might make the difference in our huge world with all the groups of people (like seven billion and counting much to my son’s chagrin as he’s a little paranoid about over-population).
So what is it? What is this shalom?
SHALOM IS NOT DEFINED BY ABSENCE. Instead, it encompasses the PRESENCE of true human flourishing (my friend’s Word of the Year): socially, emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Larson reminds me that it is “ultimate harmony.” Shalom speaks of fullness, completeness and wholeness, hardly the absence of anything, except perhaps division (as another Facebook friend reminded me). In Ancient Israel (where the word comes from), when a crime was committed, the central point was not on the outer (the broken law and restoration of order), but rather on the inner (broken shalom and restoration of peace) for all involved: victim, community and even offender. It was important that ALL would flourish, all would be brought back to wholeness.
As I stated above, our human body responds to conflict in one of four ways: fight, flight, faint or freeze. We are naturally drawn to one of those responses when it comes to personal conflict. However, somewhere among attacking, running away, avoiding and becoming paralyzed lies a completely different way, one that is more difficult, but offers much in the restoration of this fuller peace, or shalom. In fact, sometimes conflict and disagreement are required to achieve it.
In the flight, faint or freeze responses, the focus is on “ME.” I am looking for what’s easy, convenient and non-threatening. Protecting myself becomes the highest priority. However, in the fight response the focus is on “YOU,” blaming you and expecting you to solve my problem or my pain. Again, protecting myself becomes the highest priority. The peace-making, shalom-restoring response shifts to “US.” The restoration of the relationship and the flourishing of ourselves and the other becomes the highest priority. Wholeness, fullness and completeness come to the forefront. Conflict happens and disagreements occur, but the relationship is not threatened. In fact, clashes and variance might just provide the avenue for greater wholeness than without them. The move from YOU vs. ME to US changes everything.
For this girl who tends to blame others and fight, this is really BIG. A huge change of thought. And practice. It’s not enough for me to “not have fighting,” the absence of conflict. I want more. I want wholeness and healing and true flourishing. In every area of my life. For me and for you. When I think about Jesus, the “Prince of Peace (guess what the Hebrew word is there),” this makes more sense now than ever. He doesn’t just want “quiet” for me. He wants shalom. He wants me to flourish. He wants the same for you. And he wants the same for our world. Here’s to restoring it more and more every moment and every day. I hope to start right now.
Thank you again for reading all the way to the bottom. WOW! Please like this here and especially out on social media if you can! Comment here or there as well. It means the world to me!