Perfect peace?

Do you have peace in your life? Not just now and then peace but prevailing peace, the peace God promises? Not the peace of this world but a deeper, continual, constant peace in all circumstances. I know I tend to try to snatch at peace, to create my version of peace. Lately, I’ve been thinking of peace, even asking myself if I truly want to have the peace God promises in the Bible. My life tends to be sporadically peaceful. I like having a too packed schedule until I retreat exhausted to indulge my introverted self. My eldest son says I like living in a bigger world, one where I am challenged and that too often I take on more than I should, more than I can manage as I get older. He’s right. And I struggle with having any peace when any of those I love fiercely are in harm’s way emotionally, mentally or physically. I’ve had way too much of that invade my life the last few years. And, I have finally emerged from a very long period of solitude, reading and writing with reduced contact with the world outside my double-wide mobile home in Florida. As I did, I felt shot out of my invisible cannon back into the challenges and rewards, the disappointments and the satisfaction that comes with being involved with people up close, and often. It seemed to begin with a memorial service for a funny, feisty lady in our mobile home park. Someone approached me at the gathering and asked, “Do I know you?”

“Probably not,” I answered, “I’m not very social.” I felt okay with that answer at first but later it began to haunt me. It wasn’t really a friendly answer. It surely did not reflect my Christian values. We are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves but it seemed I’d been over focused on loving my own and myself and avoiding even knowing residents in the community I call home.

Within days we learned that some major issues are confronting all the residents of our community. I felt a familiar stirring and could not ignore it. I suddenly did not want to sit on the sidelines while others poured energy and time into trying to keep rents reasonable, get driveways repaired, increase security, and improve maintenance. Honestly, I felt shame, deserved guilt and shame, for purposely and insistently staying out of the fray, even out of the mundane daily stuff. I think I didn’t want to care about more people, kept telling myself I’d done my share during my working years when I was very active in community life.

The issue wasn’t that this woman who confronted me did not know me; the issue was that I knew few people at that memorial service. I only know my neighbors through my much more social husband. I prayed about my refusal to use God given gifts to help others, about my secret self-centeredness. And when we attended a community meeting to discuss the pressing issues, I stood up and offered to serve on a key committee. I ended up as chair. God is so sneaky sometimes. And now I am serving on the community HOA board. So where is my perfect peace now that I’ve added two more meetings a month and a big project with a tight timeline to get a large rent increase reversed? How will I have any peace with a target on my back inviting fellow residents to point fingers of blame at me if things don’t improve?

Here’s how; I’ll memorize Bible passages on peace, fear and do not be afraid. Isaiah 26:3 is a good one. You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Jesus, keep my mind stayed on you, not on me, but on you. Grow my trust in you until it fills me. Grant me perfect peace, help me to dwell on it as I step out to serve people in your name and I trust you to provide me the quiet time I need, not want, but need. In Jesus name, Amen.

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