I closed my eyes and asked God for what felt like the millionth time just that week, “Peace. Please let peace rule here.” The quiet Christmas tree lights winked at me from the corner of my eye like a promise. All was calm at 6:15 a.m. while the kids were still asleep. It felt like anything was possible in that quiet space before the sun stretched up into the sky.
By breakfast, two of my kids were already arguing about who was smarter and who had more orange juice in their cup. I’m still amazed at the power of their glare game and quick comebacks when they argue with each other. Pushing her juice cup forward to compare amounts with her brother, our daughter jerked her cup one way, then the other. The juice sloshed up the sides of the cup and onto the table, spilling everywhere.
I feel like that cup of orange juice a lot of days.
In those dark, pre-dawn hours, I was calm, contained, prayerful, and hopeful. But by breakfast, I was a good morning greeting gone haywire with juice spots on my glasses.
What happens when you hope and beg for peace and then the day spills out all sticky with words you regret and too many emotions at once?
After the juice spill, I tried to reel myself, the wet towels, and my kids back in with reminders about what matters more than their school grades and orange juice. I looked at our quiet Christmas tree, lighting the corner of the next room, and sighed.
As believers, we are called to be peacemakers, yet I still find myself spending energy trying to keep the peace in my home as if it’s something I can grab a hold of and secure in a jar with a screw-tight lid. It turns out, Peace is a person, not a program I regularly fail to maintain.
Almost thirteen years into parenting, I’ve all but given up on calm and quiet. Sure, there are ways to keep the peace and maintain peaceful moments with rules and structure. Those things aren’t bad, but they also aren’t what makes lasting peace.
Lasting peace comes from an everlasting relationship with Jesus, who is our Peace.
Like me, my kids have their own struggles and sin, and together, our bouquet of these things rub against each other at the breakfast table, after school, during board games, and when we’re deciding on desserts. I used to think — and sometimes still do — that the strife and chaos were evidence of my failure as a parent. I thought, If I was _________, then there would be peace. If we had _________, or if I was like so-and-so, then our home would feel peaceful.
But here’s what I’m still learning this season: Every moment of strife, selfishness, and coming up short (at home and far beyond) is a chance to ask Peace to come and be near us — to be with us. It’s an opportunity to turn towards Him in our need. It’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? It’s the last thing we’d expect. Peace doesn’t run from our chaos; Peace shows up right in the middle of it all. Right in the middle of every argument, misunderstanding, voice raised, or worse, we can cry out to Peace — Jesus — and lean hard on what cannot be mustered up or maintained in our own strength.
It’s long after Christmas, but our tree is still up. The twinkling lights shine warmth though the now brittle branches are weighed down by all the things we hoped this holiday season would be, alongside of all the good and hard things it actually was. We had some beautiful family moments with Sunday night Advent meals and candle lighting, all-day cookie baking, laughing with extended family, and wrapping gifts with anticipation. If you happened upon them, you might have thought peace was in our grasp — something we’d mastered. But if you stayed a while longer, you would’ve seen our unique style of chaos and tears and how far from peacekeeping we can actually be. I know those parts aren’t as pretty, but it’s there where I’m learning to find Peace with an outstretched hand, again and again. Maybe if I invite you in, you’ll see Him there too — Jesus, Emmanuel, with us, for us, despite us — offering all of Himself, the ultimate, lasting Peace.
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