At the end of a long day recently, my wife texted me: “I’m tired, but at peace.” We had a long meeting with county school administrators, amidst the whirlwind of figuring out how to best integrate our son into the school system, an emotionally tiring process, and she felt peace.
As a husband, it relieved me to hear those words from my wife. And the relief of that moment made me reflect, “Why am I surprised, pleasantly so, but nonetheless surprised by her statement?”
And then I realized - if we are going to model the character and life of Jesus, there is a necessary correlation between spending ourselves and yet maintaining a peace about our life.
My wife is just one example. I am surrounded by friends and co-workers with demanding schedules, and yet they maintain a peace that speaks to a reality that their responsibilities are actually energizing them rather than becoming something to begrudge until Friday.
Take Betsy Johnson. She is the principal of the Academy for G.O.D. and raises 4 children under the age of 8. You can find her taking care of responsibilities with a consistently kind countenance at all hours of the day (and sometimes night), and if you stopped and talked with her you wouldn’t imagine her to be a person that bears a lot of burden. In fact, if you shared a need with her, she might immediately begin thinking about how she could find a creative way to help in the midst of her busy schedule.
Or my good friend Adam Loeffler who runs a business, advises several other businesses, and is married with 4 young children. I consistently watch him take time out of his busy days to help people address personal and work-related needs that certainly go beyond the scope of a job description. He is faced with a multitude of dilemmas weekly, but he faces them with peace, confident God is energizing him to help bear the burdens of others in need.
Here’s the deal. I think we all either feel a little in over our heads or perhaps just apathetic trying to figure out world peace or political peace on a large scale. But what about peace amongst our families, at our workplaces, in our classrooms, amongst those we go to church or play pick-up basketball with, or even within ourselves?
While the Lord knows those things I just listed are not always refuges of peace, we are at least narrowing our scope to something we can actually deal with on a daily basis.
Peace can be elusive. We have this knack to replace the most recent anxiety or fear with the one we might encounter next.
Just think about the common images of peace: lying in a hammock on a beach drinking a cocktail, sitting around a campfire, or savoring a cup of coffee in the morning before everyone else wakes up. All scenarios with little activity going on.
And so follows the question: do we need these ideal, tranquil scenarios to experience peace? If we are people of faith, we have to resolutely deny that peace can only be attained when we remove ourselves from any moment of responsibility.
The prophet Isaiah writes: "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”
Some potential gut responses here: “My mind ain’t stayed on nothing with these three small children nagging for my attention.” Or, “How do I keep my mind on anything but my boss’s threats when he is breathing down my neck with the next deadline.” Fair enough, but at least we’ve now entered into considering the possibility.
Before you get all hung up on how ideal, but unrealistic the statement is, recognize the qualifiers. But recognize the qualifiers as a goal rather than an impossibility.
If we have this idea that keeping our minds stayed upon God is fully concentrating all our mental energy in that direction at all times, we are putting ourselves in a position to be hermits or annoyingly aloof of what is happening around us.
To keep our minds stayed upon the LORD is to do our best to respond in recognition that he is amongst us at all times. And that we trust that he wants the best for us at all times.
Whether it’s serving tables, raising children or final exams week, peace is not a default attitude towards responsibility. And so as we approach moments of responsibility, we pause and pray and remind ourselves of why we are doing what we are doing. Such a mindset reminds us to do it wholeheartedly if we are to do it all.
Peace is more than a momentary feeling. If we had to control all of those, we would all surely lose. It is a broader attitude that we possess believing that God is in our midst and that we are doing our best each day to live in the way he expects us to as human beings.
My wife possessed this attitude that day she sent that text. She had done her best to advocate for our son, to cooperate with teachers and administrators and to trust that God is with us along our journey.
When we do this, we can conclude as my wife did that evening, “I’m tired, but at peace.”