A state without war.
Accord. Order. Stability. Pacification

Typically when we think of peace, we think of it in the context of war. We want to keep the peace by waging war, or at least by using the threat of war. My army is bigger than your army, my bombs are bigger than your bombs. Much like when we were children saying, “My dad can beat up your dad.” Having the upper hand gives us the illusion of peace.

I want to look at other definitions of peace, as this International Day of Peace comes to a close.

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Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts.
Calm. Serene. Content. Comfort. Quiet.

So many of our friends and neighbors are living lives so far removed from peaceful that it’s heartbreaking. We all know someone dealing with the impossible. Facing devastation on a daily basis. These are families I know personally, whose lives have been turned upside down in the last four months.

A marriage and family being destroyed by addiction. Another by apathy and unforgiveness.

A husband and father killed in a freak accident at work, leaving behind his wife of 20 years and 4 school aged children.

A family burying their 20 year old son and brother, a college student killed in an automobile accident.

A mother’s cancer diagnosis.

The death of a father and grandfather.

A mom of 4, diagnosed with breast cancer.

A husband and father of 3, losing a longtime battle with brain cancer.

A brother and sister navigating difficult mental health issues with an aging parent.

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A state of freedom from storm or disturbance.
Hush. Stillness. Tranquility. Lull. Respite.

Texas and Louisiana are still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey. Florida is living in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Puerto Rico has been decimated by Hurricane Maria, likely to be without power for months. Cuba, St. Martin, the Virgin Islands, Antigua, and Barbuda all ravished by these storms. Lives have been lost, others forever changed, now living with the fear of the unknown. Mexico has been hit with two deadly earthquakes in the last two weeks. Almost 300 dead, 1900 injured and thousands have lost their homes. Hope is quickly giving way to despair.

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Peaceful coexistence.
Compatibility. Harmony. Fellowship. Friendship. Unity. Empathy.

So much of our world is embroiled in the exact opposite of what’s listed above. Dreamers now face the very real possibility of being deported to countries that have never been home for them. Legal immigrants fear leaving this country as they may not be allowed to return. White supremacists and neo-Nazis walk our streets proudly with a new found freedom and air of entitlement. Black lives still don’t matter as much as white lives. Or blue lives. Muslims are told to ‘go home’, or worse, are killed because they are seen as terrorists, their houses of worship destroyed. Members of the LGBTQ community live with the fact that their civil rights aren’t important to a majority of Americans because a good many Americans see them as an abomination. In many countries they are executed because of their sexuality. Women are demeaned and treated as less than, victims of sexual assault shamed because they were asking for it, while their attackers are set free. Around the world, women are looked upon as second class citizens or some man’s property. Christians are becoming known as expert wall builders, loving our neighbor as ourselves, an empty platitude that’s fallen by the wayside.

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It’s so much easier to gloss over the turmoil just below the surface with, I’m fine. Everything’s good. Easier to overlook the devastation miles away because someone else is taking care of it. Easier for us to accept that sending prayers and good thoughts is enough, and move on. Easier to look the other way because it doesn’t affect us. Because most of the time, real life is too messy. Too much trouble. Too time consuming. Too brutal. The lie is easier to stomach than the truth.

It’s time for the lie to make us sick to our stomach. Time to remember that the truth is always important. Our friends and our neighbors, near and far, no matter how different they are, deserve for the truth, regardless of how brutal, to matter to us. 

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Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.
Henri Nouwen

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