This week we lit the second candle of Advent. Peace.
We gathered down by the sea on the stunning east coast of southern Scotland. A beautiful soul from our church family fought bravely against the bitter wind to light the candle. She then talked about how God’s peace had been a lifeline for her during a busy and uncertain week. What a reason to rejoice and give thanks.
As a church we then proceeded to scatter and gather wood from the forest and salt marsh in order to build a labyrinth on the grass, one that could withstand the seemingly constant onslaught of wild weather on this coastline for the duration of Advent.
We are acutely aware of the need for sustainable rhythms that cultivate intimacy with God and allow the heart space to flourish and rest. We are also aware that we all too often face difficulties in making this happen during the busy period leading up to Christmas. Ironic when you consider the nature of Advent. We hoped the labyrinth would be a space for our community and visitors, for dog walkers and surfers, for park rangers and families to take a short moment away from the chaos to walk the labyrinth to reflect and pray, to find some peace amidst the noise and endless to-do lists.
We need peace. I think we’ll all be in agreement about that. But running at the pace of the world, getting burned out and tired, isn't God’s plan for His people. I don't think we were made for that level of assault on our hearts. And I don't believe that the answer, after finding some peace, is to jump back straight into the pace that led to burn out and stress in the first place.
The answer is to discover a life of peace that enables us to navigate the chaos and stresses, the workloads and trials. This is available. Peace through storms and testing times. It comes to us through intentionality and practice. And it comes from knowing God and learning to trust His nature and His love for us.
You can begin by taking the right next step. Begin where your day begins. As you wake, bring your life before Jesus, everyone you know, everything you have to do that day……consecrate it all to Him, bring it under His guidance, wisdom and authority. Its amazing when you begin to believe the promises of the Bible and believe in the inherent goodness of God just how much the need to make it happen for ourselves begins to diminish. In the previous Journal entry entitled Advent #1 HOPE, we talked about God’s faithfulness being our shield (Psalm 91). Well living a life peace through storms and trial means that we have to actually start believing that, believe that He is our refuge and our strength and faithful in His love and goodness.
We’re made for oneness, union with God. It was Jesus heart laid bare as He prayed for us in John 17. Will we truly find peace away from that union? Not the deep peace and soul’s rest that is promised and that we are made for. That comes of deep connection to our Maker and our God. His friendship and favour, and His Spirit, usher in peace that is just not achievable by our own efforts or by seeking relief in other things of our own constructing. They may bring momentary relief and peace, but we’re going for the promise of ever-lasting peace.
Begin with the morning practice and see where just making yourself open and yielded to Jesus and His ways leads you. Maybe you will find Peace through the chaos without having to totally remove yourself from it. Maybe you will find what John Eldredge helpfully defines as ‘benevolent detachment’.
Some helpful apps for this season that I have found incredibly life-giving these past weeks: