There are few moments of peace, too few moments of grace for any of us these days. Each day, we rise to more devastation, more reasons to despair, more reasons to cry out: Come Quickly, Lord Jesus.
That’s the problem with knowledge, isn’t it?
Once you are no longer the center of the universe, once you become aware of the sufferings of others, it becomes near about impossible to forget about the sufferings of others. And that awareness? It is like a relentless toddler demanding that we fix whatever is broken, right here, right now, hurry, C’mon.
Only the self-centered can afford to push aside others in a could-care-less fashion.
Only the self-serving can ignore the cries of the brokenhearted. Only those who have never known pain, never known loss, never known illnesses, never encountered mercy, never experienced grace, can go merrily about their way oblivious to those in despair.
All the rest of us, we sit in the darkness with those in need, crying alongside them, praying for the darkness to be busted wide open.
Years ago I wrote the story of a man who was freed from a rice paddy in the midst of a badly-conceived war. Most of his fellow soldiers had been killed the day before in an ugly front-line battle with the North Vietnamese. He was wounded but breathing and hiding. Daylight had brought with it the sound of a Huey. The first thing this man thought was “My Deliverer is coming!” As I wrote that soldier’s story, I played and replayed the song My Deliverer by Rich Mullins.
It remains one of my favorite songs. When all seems dark, I can put that song on and I see that soldier, bloodied and broken, yet, hoping still for a deliverer.
His hope was not misplaced. He was plucked to safety from that boggy field. He lived to tell me the story. And all these years later, his story still imparts hope to me. It serves as a reminder that we must never give up the fight, we should always trust that Our Deliverer is searching for us.
Maybe all that is why while attending a garden wedding this past weekend, I was so struck by that moment when a blind man stood before the guests and prepared to serve the Eucharist. His grandson at his side, filling the cup from which the bride and groom would drink. Glancing over at the blind man’s wife, I noticed her lips moving. She was repeating every word her husband would deliver. The synchronicity between the two of them a poetry of movement and spirit perfected over the decades through moments of despair and hope.
The blind man ministered the Sacraments to the bride – his granddaughter – and her newly-vowed husband, imparting to them peace and hope for the future ahead, which will most assuredly have moments of despair, of hopelessness, of wanting to give up the fight.
“Take this bread and eat and do so in remembrance of me.”
Holy and Mighty,
Holy Immortal One,
Have mercy upon us.
Afterwards, the Bride and Groom served their attendants.
Then they served their guests.
We often think of peace as that thing we find when we are at our most still, our most silent, our most disengaged. But the problem with that is that we are looking inward in those moments. Thinking primarily of self.
Could it be that if it is peace we desire we should be about the business of seeking out those in the greatest distress?
Don’t we gain the most peace when we cloak ourselves in the garment of Jesus and head into the unruly crowds?
Isn’t peace best achieved when we rescue the wounded and carry them to safety?
Surely it is our duty, our obligation, our mission to head into the most dangerous terrain and make as much noise as we can to let others know that their Deliverer is nigh.
Peace is best found in the chaos, not the quiet, when we live a life fully engaged. When we blindly and in faith accept the challenge of serving others.
Be careful not to mistake solitude, quiet and disengagement for peace.
Serving self is not the same as finding peace. That’s just old-fashioned escapism.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of CHRISTIAN BEND: A novel (Mercer University Press, Sept. 2017).