As I was scrolling through past Facebook memories this morning, I saw a graphic someone shared with me last year on this day:
Anyone who has the word “rehearsal” written on various days of their calendar this month knows that the Christmas season is somewhat less than peaceful, but honestly, we can probably all relate to the sentiment. Exchange “musician” with the word parent, grandparent, teacher, volunteer, retail worker…you get the idea. The truth is that the holidays are often the least peaceful time of the year despite the shimmering decorations that lead us to believe otherwise. I had the hectic pace of the season in mind on Sunday while listening to the morning’s sermon when the lyrics of Amy Grant’s song “I Need a Silent Night” began to play in my head:
A peaceful end to a crazy day… how about a deep tub filled with hot water? Pentatonix singing Christmas carols. A glass of chilled chardonnay. Dimmed lights. Kids asleep for the night. A to-do list that can be ignored until the following morning. Peace…
Except that is the peace that the world gives. It’s fleeting. Momentary. An illusion.
I once had a friend who used to avoid tough conversations with the words, “I just need peace.” Except his version of peace was found through escape, through hiding in dark corners of denial. God has made it very clear through His word that there is no peace in darkness. Only by stepping out into the light can we find genuine peace, the peace that Jesus gives.
I understand my friend’s inclination to hide difficult topics, issues, struggles under the cover of dark. Like the busy mom who can relate to the overbooked musician during the holidays, many of us can relate to the man trying to hide his demons away from the blinding light. I had come to a place in my own life where I decided I was happy with good enough. And why not? On paper my life looked pretty incredible. I had a loving husband who is truly the kindest, most honest person I’ve ever known. My children were happy and healthy. I had a dog and two cats, a four bedroom, three bath home, a flexible job, wonderful friends. Honestly, for those looking in from the outside, my life was basically a Norman Rockwell painting. Someone even wrote about me in her book called Good Enough is the New Perfect. Seriously. I was literally the poster child for championing mediocrity.
But the truth is that God wants more for us than pretty good, and not because He needs us to be perfect, but because he wants us to be who we were made to be – magnificently, lovingly, fearfully created in His image, the children of God.
That train wreck moment I described in last week’s Hope post was the jolt I needed to take on the darker parts of my own life with a new level of honesty and commitment. Remember that episode of Friends when Chandler discovers Monica’s secret closet? Perfect, organized, OCD Monica’s secret closet in her perfect, organized OCD apartment?
I’ve got a hidden, metaphorical closet of my own that I lovingly refer to as my Pocket of Crazy. I can get nearly every room in the house clean, but there’s always that one room…every drawer in the kitchen organized, except for the one next to the fridge, every aspect of my life on track, unless you’re looking at those hurts I won’t forgive, the habits I cling to, the hang-ups that seem impossible to ditch. My pocket of crazy in an otherwise Christ-filled life. The dark corners, hidden from His light. Walk in the light, as He is in the light…
Another friend who has been walking with me on this journey to open every last closet door and empty those little pockets of crazy from my life has taught me to ask myself this question: How will this impact my tranquility? It’s amazing how rare my visits to those dark corners have become now that I’ve got that tool in my toolbox.
The gift of discernment and wisdom is one of the ways that God brings peace into our lives. As I listened to the sermon on Sunday morning, another pathway to peace came to mind. The sermon point was this: Jesus reforms our behavior. While the pastor spoke, my mind wandered (sorry, Pastor David!) and I began to see the process of reformation, of transformation. I’m a visual person, so I used my sermon notes as a place to sketch out what turned into this…
That feeling of guilt – not shame – is our internal check engine light, the waving red flag, the screeching alarm. If you’re like me, you sometimes set off the smoke alarms in your house while cooking. Every time that happens, I climb onto a chair and hit the reset button to make the ear-piercing sound stop. My friend who liked to say he just needed a little peace and went to hide in his dark corners? That was him hitting the reset button on his internal warning siren rather than locating the source of the guilt. When we take the time to search our hearts and move out of denial, we progress from that uneasy, painful feeling of guilt to a sense of conviction. I prefer conviction over guilt any day because at least I know where the fire is and that I’ve got an opportunity to put it out.
By the way, guilt and conviction? They’re the opposite of peace and tranquility.They’re the pebble in your shoe, the itch that you can’t reach, the uneasy feeling when you know the character on the screen should not have gone into that abandoned asylum.
But thankfully God has given us a way out. Step three – obedience. Humble obedience is the gift that leads to peace and tranquility through transformation.
Shoving all of what my friend Mary calls “soul junk” into that never used closet and closing the door is the path of least resistance in the moment, but the day will come that someone will pry the door off the hinges and we’ll have to face the consequences of seeking temporary peace, of settling for the peace that the world gives.
Humility is far from the easy way out, but as the Word tells us, it is when we are weak that He is strong. His power is made perfect in our weakness, and the same power that brought Jesus from the tomb lives in us, waiting to transform our lives, bringing tranquility in our times of trial, shining light into our darkest corners, presenting us with the gift of peace not just during one season of the year, but every day.
Heavenly Father, last week we prayed for you to give us strength so that we might fearlessly search ourselves and prepare our hearts for the coming of the Lord. Our hope continues to be in you, our opportunity to experience peace and tranquility coming not through denial and avoidance, but rather through humble obedience and submission to Your will. May we find the courage to allow You to shine Your light into the dark corners of our lives. Amen.