Thursday, December 16, 2010

Peacemakers

When I was young and my parents left my siblings and I alone in the evenings for one reason or another--maybe a meeting, maybe just a dinner alone (imagine!), there was something of a predictable pattern in our house.  There was sure to be a rumble of some kind, though for the life of me, I can't remember why any of them started.  Then those rumbles would escalate into full-blown physical fights.  My older brother and next younger sister would go at it.  Tooth and nail, the saying goes, but it was more like wrestling than biting and clawing, I think.  The Dump usually tried sitting on our older brother.  She was, in those days, what our family kindly called 'husky' (though she's a tall, trim woman in her fifties).  Back then she had the girth to sit on a person and make a difference.  There would be yelling and probably some hitting, and a whole lot of tension in the house.

I HATED IT.  I really, really hated it.  For one thing, I was a puny thing who looked like she'd been kept in a closet while the other kids were fed.  The Dump and I have definitely exchanged body types in our fifties. Sigh.  But that's a different story.  Anyway, back then, I didn't have a snowball's chance in...well, you know...of even keeping my own in any skirmish between my siblings, even the biting and kicking ones between my younger sisters.  I was a wimp, through and through.  I didn't like the sounds of it, the violence of it.  Just the way it felt between my shoulder blades when they fought.  You know, that tension.  This very moment as I'm thinking about it, I still hate it. 

So you know what I did when they fought?  When their voices were raised in anger, I'd stand at the edge of the room and say, "Don't fight."  Then pretty soon, I'd be yelling too.  "DON'T FIGHT!", my voice every bit as loud as theirs, my yells definitely adding to the tension in the house.  As you might imagine, my yelling at my siblings had absolutely NO impact whatsoever in their behavior.  In fact, sometimes they even turned and yelled back at me, though neither of them ever pulled me into their physical fight (thankfully!).

But there was another, far less perfect (if those were even close to perfect) motive for my 'peace-keeping' role on our nights left home alone.  I wanted to be able to tell our parents that I hadn't fought.  That I'd tried to stop them.  I loved being known as 'the peace-keeper,' even though I knew inside I wasn't interested in peace for the right reasons.  Only for myself.  So I wouldn't feel stress, and so I'd get the praise.

This came to mind this Advent morning when I thought of the Angel saying "Peace on earth among all people..."  And Jesus saying, "Blessed are the peacemakers."  The longer I've been a Christian the stronger my inclination toward peace.  But it occurs to me that it isn't enough to stand at the edge of the room and yell, "Peace!"  Instead, if I believe in peace, I need to wade in and be part of the breaking up of the hostility between people.  Now I'm not talking about taking up a diplomatic career and flying over to Afghanistan, but being involved in peacemaking in my actual, ordinary life.  I'm convicted that over the course of my adult life, I've leaned away from peace-making in the interest of what I called "Truth-telling".  Being a truth-teller is good, but always with the view of peace as the result. 

So how do I live this out?
I don't really know.  For one thing, the person I told the most truth to at the cost of the most peace in the last decade or two was my mother.  I definitely did not make peace in her life because I was intent on not allowing her to manipulate me. Yep, pretty much like yelling at the edges of the room about peace, while making my mother cry.  Well-done, huh? I'm sorry about that now, but am long past being able to do anything about it.  It does seem to me, though, that Jesus intends me to learn.  And then to do.  Not simply as an exercise in thought but action.  He always intends action.  If the world is to know peace, I think it must come through the peacemakers.  And we who are His disciples are blessed to be called such.  Called to it.  So how to do it? 

With my husband, my children, my in-laws and my friends:  A His peace-maker.

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