There’s no place that reveals my sometimes-obsessive need for control more than the passenger’s seat of my car. I don’t remember having anxiety in the passenger seat until after I became a mother. Something clicked in my brain then, and to my husband’s dismay, that something caused me to grip the handle above the passenger window with a newfound relish.
I hate that I feel this way. I trust my husband. He has a perfect driving record. He drives much more than I do.
Though I’m a long way from calm in these moments, there are a few things that have helped:
~ Closing my eyes and simply trusting that my husband can handle the aggressive New England drivers surrounding us on the highway.
~ Holding (okay, clutching like my life depends on it!) a smooth beach stone I keep in the small compartment of the passenger door.
I found the stone last summer and couldn’t bring myself to leave it at the beach. It was smooth and oval, a perfect fit for the palm of my hand. I decided to keep it in the car and I feel instantly calmer when I hold it. Not exactly peaceful, but not quite crazed with worry, either!
The definition of peace is freedom from disturbance. But biblical peace suggests something more than simply no war or disturbances. Something more than the absence of harried New England drivers on the road to shake up my anxiety.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. It’s more than the absence of conflict–it’s a wholeness, a fullness. Kind of like the state of my stone. Smooth and complete, with no interruptions or cracks.
But let’s face it. Lots of humanity can be broken. Our bodies, our circumstances, our relationships. Not to mention the disorder of the world in general. The environment, storms, natural disasters, disease, injustice, and death itself. There’s a lot more on this earth that’s broken than just humanity.
If you’ve read the Old Testament, you know it was rare for Israel to have shalom. But some of the prophets saw what their people lacked, what they so badly needed. Even Jeremiah prophecies a coming hope of a new covenant that would be written on their hearts.
Isaiah says a child-king would be born that would be called, “Wonder of a Counselor, Mighty God, Father of Eternity, Sar-Shalom (Prince of Peace).” (Isaiah 9:6, CJB) He goes on to say that “there will be no limits to the wholeness (or shalom) he brings.” (Isaiah 9:7, MSG)
No limits to peace? I’m listening, Mr. Isaiah.
Seven hundred years after Isaiah prophesied these words, an angel would appear on a countryside field to a group of shepherds and tell them not to be afraid, that a Messiah God had been born.
As if to seal the deal, a host of angels appeared, singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14, NIV)
Jesus would grow up and teach some radical stuff to his followers. And when they were confused by it and even scared for a future without him, he told them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
He would overcome. He would make us whole. He would restore our broken relationship with God, with one another, and even with his creation. And while we still wait for the full reality of his Kingdom, we are not without hope. We are not without peace.
And because he brings this shalom, we also are called to be shalom. It gives me comfort that anytime I am working for peace—whether it be in relationships, in a situation I don’t have control over (hello, passenger seat!), or whether it be working to cultivate the peace of the earth in caring for it—that means I’m working with God toward the full restoration and completeness of his Kingdom. I love that!
May this advent season find you in a state of shalom on earth because of his shalom on heaven and earth.
(A big thank you to the Bible Project for helping me whittle down to the meaning of some of our favorite Advent words–hope, peace, joy, and love.
May this season fill you with all four of these life-giving words.)