Peace at the Gate
It’s late afternoon, and I’m looking and listening out my new office window at a thunderstorm. Thunderstorms are common on the prairies, of course, and can be truly breathtaking. They are wild and unpredictable—they can last for hours, or be gone only minutes after they arrive. The rains come fast and hard, the sky booms, crackles, and sparks—lit up with the pyrotechnics of heaven.
It’s nice to see a thunderstorm. I can’t remember even one in six years on the west coast, although the power and beauty of the created world was in abundant evidence there as well, if in different ways. For all their impressive beauty, though, thunderstorms also bespeak danger. They can frighten and intimidate, reminding us of just how small and insignificant we really are. They can send us running for shelter—somewhere secure to hide from the brute power of nature.
Outside my office, right in front of the entrance to our church is a little wooden sign that says, in nine different languages, “May Peace Prevail Upon Earth.” It looks overly optimistic right now, this little sign, especially as it is mercilessly pounded by torrential rains. Poor peace, taking a beating in this driving rain, this spectacular storm.
“May Peace Prevail Upon Earth.” Peace certainly doesn’t seem to prevail very often, in our world or in our lives. From global conflicts and catastrophes to the storms that rage in our own hearts and minds, and of those we care about, peace so often seems a scarce and evasive commodity. “Peace” is one of those words like “hope” and “love”—they roll off the tongue easily and beautifully, but seem so far from reality, always eluding our grasp.
The Apostle Paul tells the believers in Philippi that the peace of God will “guard” their hearts and minds, in the midst of circumstances that could easily lead to anxiety and distress (Philippians 4:6-7). Times like ours, in other words. Any time and every time.
So often, peace is a “something” that we want. We want and pray for peace in the Middle East or the streets of London, peace in our relationships and workplaces, peace of mind. Peace like a commodity, an object that will fix things once we possess it.
But I’m wondering about the idea of peace as “guard” today. Peace as a gift of God, to protect and guide through the storm. Not to replace the storm, necessarily, although God knows we could use that too, but to shield us through it. Peace that keeps us standing and facing the right direction, even in the midst of chaos and confusion.
Peace that stands at the gate of our hearts and minds, a little sign, a few words of hope and promise, while the sky explodes and the rains pound down.