My whole life I’ve had to fight to fall asleep. During some seasons I will lay awake for a couple hours, my mind spinning faster and faster until I finally pass out. During other periods of my life, whether from stress, anxiety, excitement, or just no good reason at all, the couple of hours turns into days where my body does not let me sleep. When I was away at Cambridge working on my Master’s degree, one of those seasons hit me. I tried watching a movie, reading a book, listening to quiet music, praying, taking sleeping aids, drinking tea, listening to scripture… but nothing worked. No matter how tired I was, as soon as the lights went off, I was fully awake.
I begged and pleaded with God. I offered, as you do in situations when you’re desperate and delirious, all kinds of things. I’d read the Bible more, pray more, give up chocolate, give up Netflix, anything if he’d let me sleep. For a long time he didn’t answer me. And when he did, it wasn’t straightforward. As I lay awake in the dark, he brought a specific song to my head and told me to recite the lyrics. So in my head, I sang the lyrics to Sherri Youngward’s song “Peace.”
Peace, be still,
Lay all your worries down.
Be still, oh my soul
For our God is in control
And if God is for us
Then whom shall I fear?
And our God is for us
So lay down, be still
He is God.
Before I could finish the song, I fell asleep. And for months afterwards, after I tossed and turned for hours, I’d sing that song in my head, and would never make it to the end before I fell asleep.
So then, what of peace? And what is peace?
At his birth Jesus Christ is called the Prince of Peace, and yet it seems to me that his stay on earth was anything but peaceful. Crowds accompanied him wherever he went, he was followed by those seeking healing, and confronted by those wanting to trap him in his words. He was constantly teaching wisdom, performing extravagant miracles, and sometimes was moved to righteous anger. At first glance, to me anyways, this does not look like Peace. And yet, in every situation, Jesus takes disarray, pain, and chaos and realigns it into order, truth, righteousness, and justice. He creates wholeness where there was fracture. Wholeness.
“Peace I leave with you,” he says. “My peace I give to you.”
This word for peace in Greek is eiréné, but is believed to be derived from the root eirō, which means “to join, tie together into a whole" or, wholeness. It is “when all essential parts are joined together.” It is “God’s gift of wholeness.”
So then, with this definition in mind, what of peace? What is peace? This reflection is what I leave you with this Christmas:
Peace is neither apathy, nor ignorance. It is not a content born of satisfaction with the way things are, but rather a submission to His Kingship over our lives. Peace is unaltered by the moving and shaking of the world, even in the midst of suffering. It is to know, as Lady Julian of Norwich so famously wrote, that all is well, and all will be well. It is a deep quietness of the soul. It is to trust. It is to rest. And in that trusting and resting to be joined together with Him, and in joining with Him, in binding ourselves to His holiness, to finally become whole.
May we accept the gift of peace you freely offer. May we trust in your Lordship over our lives and over the world around us. May we submit our rebellious nature to your goodness and authority, bind our souls to you, and find wholeness. For really, that is what you came for. You are the Prince of Peace.
1. John 14:27
2. Strong, James. “1515. Eiréné.” Strong’s Concordance. Abdingdon Press, 1890. Bible Hub, https://biblehub.com/greek/1515.htm.
3. Norwich, Julian. Revelations of Divine Love. Translated by Clifton Wolters. London, Penguin, 1966.