It Starts With Me

sea of galilee

Our team at the place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

I can’t even begin to tell all of the stories of hope and change and self-sacrifice that I had the immense honor of listening to and immersing into while I was in Israel/Palestine with The Global Immersion Project.

As we sat overlooking the shore of the Sea of  Galilee towards the end of our trip, which had been filled with meeting peacemakers, learning from people of different faiths and ethnicities and backgrounds, and traveling around Israel and Palestine, we were posed the question:

What is God calling you into that doesn’t make sense?

The answer for me was an overwhelming and freeing call to DEEP PEACE within myself. To be reconciled. To grow in my worship and discipleship of the Prince of Peace. 

As one who’s been particularly gung-ho about ACTING in the face of injustice, this call to deep peace WITHIN myself didn’t make sense. When I learn about a new social issue, I want to immediately change my shopping habits, join some kind of club or group and do what I can to volunteer my time and money and skills to help the cause.

I know this about myself.

In fact, God’s been subtly and not-so-subtly been calling me to stop and sit at His feet, especially in the moments when I most want to run out and change the world.

He’s said it before.

Bask. 

Come to me. 

Be loved.

So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise as I sat overlooking the choppy, wind blown Sea of Galilee, that Jesus once again called me to step out on the waves on a journey to be loved, to find peace–with myself. But it did.

IMG_4723

I didn’t know any Hebrew or Arabic going into the trip. I found it wonderfully poetic that the first two words we learned on this peacemaking endeavor were words that mean peace: Shalom in Hebrew and Salaam in Arabic. These words  are used as common greetings and can be heard throughout the bustling streets of Jerusalem.

Peace. Shalom. Salaam.

My understanding of shalom from Sunday School days reminds me that peace doesn’t just mean the absence of violence, but something more. Shalom implies wholeness, completeness, a life, a heart, a world undivided.

Integrity.

And this peacemaking starts at home. Yes, in our homes–with our spouses, roommates, children–but even closer to home. In our own hearts.

Our leader and fellow peacemaker, Jon Huckins, explained it like this in his recent reflections on the trip:

As our participants see and experience the pain and injustice that exists in this region, there is a natural pull to pick sides and get really pissed off. The opposite extreme is to see the conflict, be so overwhelmed with its complexities and want to simply walk away. Neither option is the work of peacemaking and my (and my partner, Jer Swigart) work is to walk with people towards a more constructive place in their formation, which usually means confronting the evil within ourselves before confronting the evil around us. It is ridiculously difficult!!

Before I confront the evil around me, I must reconcile the evil, the selfishness and greed and obsession with self- and image-preservation in my own heart.

I must first be reconciled by the Prince of Peace.

When asked how he can love and live as he does, one of the peacemakers we met replied that he can reconcile others because he is reconciled. The growth started within and the fruit is abundant in his life, in his family, in his community. (I’ll share more of his story later.)

So before I start sharing these stories of people carrying out lives of unwarranted compassion, I wanted to reiterate the need to seek Him first, to seek to be reconciled in our own hearts and souls.

And this being reconciled is not a one time thing.  The call is to grow into this new, reconciled self. Not as a means to our own happy ends, but as a peacemaking practice. As a spiritual discipline. As the first step in bringing shalom, salaam, wholeness to the world.

If you, too, want to go deeper in your journey of cultivating inner peace, here are a few suggestions that I’ve either found helpful in the past or am committed to trying as I move forward. Feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions, and peacemaking practices. Thanks!

Some inner peace cultivating practices: 

  • Practice the Prayer of Examen: Developed by St. Ignatius, the prayer of examen is a daily ritual of checking in with God, focusing your eyes and your heart on where He is moving, and praying into the areas of your life where you struggle to put Him first. Find out more here.
  • Read the Sermon on the Mount every day for 1 month and reflect on the call of Jesus. (I’ve never done this, but I’m starting now. We’ll see where it takes me!) IMG_4770
  • Spend time in nature or another favorite place with God. This has long been my favorite inner peace making activity. Just sitting and listening to the waves of the ocean or breathing in the fresh forest air in a grove of pine trees is where I am most strongly reminded of God’s overpowering, irrational love for me with all of my faults and weaknesses.
  • Pray for the enemies within you. I’ve always thought of myself as a peaceful person because of my excellent conflict avoidance and appeaser skills, but I have been struck by the idea that being a peacemaker actually requires us to move TOWARD conflict. I’ve been specifically challenged to look at the areas of conflict within myself that I’ve been avoiding and God may be calling me to enter into. If I can’t even face my own conflict and pain, how can I expect to bring peace to other people? This idea paired up nicely with a book I’m reading called When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd. She wrote, “to be spiritual is to confront our pain, rather than make an enemy out of it. When Jesus told us to love our enemies, I suspect that he was talking about our inner enemies too. He knew that love was the only means by which to transform them.” Our own inner work of restoration and reconciliation can parallel our actions as peacemakers in our spheres of influence. 
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4 thoughts on “It Starts With Me

  1. Lyn Dershem says:

    Wow! Aly. I can’t even begin to tell you how this spoke to me today, as I was just asking God to show me what to do in an area of conflict. I am praying for you and praying that God will continue to guide me as to what I need to do in this situation. I so want God to be glorified and Satan to be banished!

  2. […] the Lives of Unwarranted Compassion I witnessed, along with the realization that this peace process Starts With Me. Now I’ve moved on to the hard writing–sharing […]

  3. M says:

    I like how you say that you always thought of yourself as a peaceful person because of your conflict avoidance skills. Amen to that, sister. I have thought the same of myself for a long time. The Lord showed me recently that if I avoid conflict but walk away with a bitter and unforgiving heart, I’m not actually being a peacemaker at all. Forgiveness is a powerful tool for peacemaking. I still have so much to learn, but I’m determined to be relentless in forgiveness.

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