Two years ago and five days before Lent, I stared at my Facebook feed and wondered, "What should I fast from this Lent?" All of my friends were posting their chosen fasts: Starbucks, media, food, and even Facebook itself. I tried each suggestion on and nothing fit.
I wanted a deeper, more transformative practice for the forty days of Lent, that led me closer to Jesus and breathed life into the dry places of my soul.
Even though in my non-denominational tradition, fasting is an optional practice, it's one I wanted to explore. I love the idea of letting myself be pruned so that good fruit may come, and denying myself some creature comfort felt like the proper pruning for me. Until I read the words of Margaret Feinberg in a blog post about fasting when she proposed:
But as I suggest in Wonderstruck, maybe the question we need to ask as we enter Lent isn’t, “What are you giving up for Lent?” as much as “What do you want to lay hold of during Lent?”
I felt that the continuous leading of the Lord towards the teaching of peace. So, I decided to spend my Lent laying hold of peace.
You know how you've been friends with someone a long time and you think you know everything about them and then one night over dinner you hear them tell someone else something about themselves that you never knew. Have you turned towards them the big eyes and exclaimed, "What? I can't believe I didn't know that about you?" Did you feel a renewed sense of wonder and awe for this person who you've loved for so long?
That's exactly how I felt when I realized that the peace Jesus gives us was so much more than what I thought.
At the beginning of Lent, whenever I thought of peace, I thought of the lack of conflict.
Quiet, calm, and most importantly, everything going my way. When I read of Jesus calming the storm with a booming, "peace, be still" I was like the disciples, amazed at Jesus's ability to control the storms and so I put on a common metaphor when I prayed, "Jesus, calm the storms in my life".
When I thought of Jesus sitting with the disciples and telling them, "Peace, I give you. Not the peace of the world but my peace," I didn't get that Jesus was referring to something infinitely more holistic than the warm fuzzies that come when you know someone is looking out for you. So, I began to see Jesus's identity as the Prince of Peace as my ultimate teddy bear– he (and his peace) exists to make me feel all gosh-darn lovely.
When I read passages like Galatians that praise peace as evidence that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, I again referred to my surface definition of peace as lack of conflict or disruption. This led me to lead a very timid life in an effort to "live at peace."
But, during my 40 Days of Peace during Lent, I studied the word, "peace" and found a new word that not only fleshed out those passages for me, but made my very self-centered idea of peace expand to a more Kingdom purpose.
When the word "peace" is used in Scripture, more than likely, the writer used the word, "Shalom" and we've translated it to peace.
'Shalom' is a word I wasn't too familiar with– I'm not Jewish or Muslim so it wasn't a part of my everyday language, but the more I learned about Shalom the more I was convinced that this was what Jesus wanted me to "lay hold" of.
Shalom is the Hebrew concept of "peace" that speaks to God's dream of wholeness for us. It is a multi-directional concept of relational wholeness between us and the earth, each other, and God.
Shalom asks, "What does this person/situation need to be restored to God's best dream?" When sin entered the world, so did brokenness, and as followers of Jesus, our calling is to be agents of this Shalom.
So, with this new concept as my filter, I went back to Jesus in the boat with the disciples and I saw him not speaking to the sea, but to his discipleship, saying, "Shalom brothers! Trust in me as your Lord. Trust that I have your best interest at heart. See that I am all you need when you are faced with the brokenness of this world".
When I swapped out "shalom" in Jesus's promise for peace in John 14:27,
"Shalom I leave with you; my Shalom I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
I saw Jesus's subversive marching orders:
I may be leaving you, but hold on to the a picture of the world whole and restored I've shown you in my ministry. Remember the ways I've loved and healed and sought justice. These bring peace the world. Not the way the world identifies peace and power, but my wholeness. Do not give into the the fear of this calling and don't feel overwhelmed.
And when I used, "Shalom" in our passage in Galatians, I saw peace as more than the Holy Spirit nurturing own sense of well-being but a challenge to live my life other's-centered.
The barometer for my peace doesn't come from how calm and gentle I'm feeling, but how merciful and generous I'm being.
Through my studying during 40 Days of Peace, I've come up with a few questions to help me think about God's Shalom over my peace that I use when I'm inspecting this particular fruit in my life, I ask myself three questions:
1: What would God dream for this person/situation?
2: Do I agree with that dream? If not, why?
3: What resources do I have to make that dream of wholeness come to pass?
Usually at the end of prayerfully considering these questions, I realize two things.
First: The peace in my spirit that I've always wanted comes. I'm calmer, gentler, and I'm aware of the quietness in my soul that comes from knowing I am loved and seen. It's the crazy, upside down economy of God. When we spend ourselves for others, He lavishes riches upon us.
And then: I found that peace became incredibly accessible. It wasn't this esoteric idea of zen, but an everyday occurrence like making my coffee, slipping on my sandals, brushing my teeth.
Peacemaking became the smile to my busy Starbucks barista, the text to the overwhelmed mom, the grace-filled status Facebook in response to the turmoil in our country. These small means of grace are acts of wholeness that have a profound ripple effect.
I'm so glad I laid hold of this vision for peace. It's made me a better friend, wife, mom, and leader but it's also connected me to the heart of Jesus.
Peace, Shalom, wholeness, healing– these are our calling and our inheritance as followers of Jesus.
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Other than a woman with a totally unique name, Osheta is a city-dwelling wife, mommy, friend, speaker, event planner, lover of pretty things, and shameless reality TV watcher. She writes about creating wholeness where there is brokenness, extending love, and fostering community at (the aptly named!) Shalom in the City.
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Thank you for sharing with us, today, Osheta!
I know that I tend to focus on an inner, self-serving peace rather than the Peace that comes from God through serving and living "others-centered."
Thank you for this awesome challenge to try to live out God's dream for those around us!
Stay tuned for the rest of our study in the Fruit of the Spirit!
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Grace and Truth
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Grace and Truth