BETHANY BELUE|GUEST It is 6:00 p.m. on a Friday night. The kitchen is a mess with dirty dishes scattered on the counter and crumbs blanketing the floor from a toddler who thinks throwing his food is funny. My hair is tied in a messy ponytail, and spit-up stains dot my shirt. My 19-month-old is running wild awaiting bath time while my two-month-old cries, ready for her last little nap before the end of the day. As I look around at this scene, with toys scattered everywhere and the sounds of young children filling the home, I can’t help but laugh. Although I’m living in my very own circus and a far cry from how I used to spend a Friday night, I laugh at how different my life is now and how peaceful my heart is in this moment of chaos. For all of us, the last few years have felt heavy, unnerving, and probably at times like living in a dramatic movie. Between a pandemic which has completely changed so much about our world, political divisions, racial unrest, and continual brokenness that fills our lives, we can all say we have faced tribulation. While all of these things have impacted my life personally, the biggest focus in my world has been the birth of two children in less than two years after years of struggling with infertility. These babies were prayed for, longed for, and still very much a surprise to us. In a short period of time, while the world around us changed dramatically, everything in our personal lives changed as we welcomed these two little lives into our family. As I navigate this new season that feels like I’m barely keeping my head above water, I surprisingly told a friend recently, “I think I may be more at peace now in this season than I've ever felt before.”
ALLISON VAN EGMOND | GUEST The world news blares updates about recent warfare. An email alert chimes with bad news from a doctor. A mom yells in frustration. A pastor is persecuted for speaking the truth. A teen is plagued with suicidal thoughts. A kid screams for attention. A couple quarrels regularly. A woman struggles with falling into the same sin. There are many daily concerns that threaten to steal our peace. Longing for Peace Our chaotic lives can cause us to feel overwhelmed and unsettled. We are surrounded by various forms of suffering. Sometimes in the midst of the turmoil in my own life, I dream about lounging on the beach with a book in my hand, a salty snack to nibble on, and the soothing sounds of the ocean around me. Perhaps you’ve had a similar daydream. When life seems to swirl in chaos around us, we tend to want to escape the noise. We dream about another world, another place where there are no demands on our attention, no noises filling our ears, no fears or sorrows filling our minds. We long for a break. A pause button. Peace and quiet.
JENNA TEACHEY | GUEST What comes to mind when you hear the word “peace”? It’s funny, but when I hear the word peace, I think about the movie Miss Congeniality. It’s a cute comedy with Sandra Bullock starring as an FBI agent who goes undercover as a beauty pageant contestant. At the end of the movie, the final five contestants are asked, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?” They all say, “world peace” except for Bullock’s character who says society needs stronger punishment for parole violators. When she says it, the auditorium goes completely silent, and the crowd looks appalled and Bullock quickly adds, “and world peace.” The crowd then goes wild, cheering and applauding. It makes me chuckle every time I watch it. I recognize the movie is clearly making fun of the typical beauty pageant answer of “world peace.” But really, who doesn’t want world peace? Who in their right mind prefers war over peace? So, what exactly is this peace that we all want? Webster defines peace as a freedom from disturbance; a state in which there is no war. This definition of peace sounds awesome but the more I have pondered this, it also seems fleeting.
PEY CHU|GUEST I am a huge fan of modern medicine. My first three children were born in North Carolina with the marvelously numbing help of an epidural. Sure, I felt uncomfortable but I did not feel the excruciating agony of childbirth. This was not the case for baby number four. He was born in East Asia where the epidural was not often administered and so, it did not take. I did not know that birthing a baby was actually supposed to be so painful. At one point, I was so convinced that I was dying in childbirth that I tearfully looked into my husband’s eyes and apologized for dying and leaving him a widower to care for three, possibly four, children. From Sorrow to Joy In his farewell address to his disciples, Jesus compares his impending earthly departure with a woman’s sorrow in labor. This metaphor would not have been a new one to those listening to Jesus. It was used in Old Testament biblical literature to allude to “the birth pains of the Messiah refer[ing] to a period of terrible trouble that must precede the consummation.”Jesus uses this imagery to show his disciples that they were at that point. The misery of Christ’s death would be countered with the bliss of Christ’s resurrection. In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus has been preparing his disciples for what was about to come. As he looked ahead to his own death, Jesus tells them in John 16 that soon they would not see him. Their sorrow at his departure would be like the pains of childbirth. But their sorrow would not be the end; their sorrow would turn to joy. The intense agony of labor (and their sorrow) would be followed by inexpressible joy just as a woman “no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21). Jesus follows with, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:23).
When my oldest daughter was six, my husband and I left the country for two weeks. Two weeks. It’s really not that long, but, from the perspective of my six-year-old, it seemed like an eternity. She was afraid to be left without us, she was sad because she was going to miss us, and she was worried about what it would be like with us gone. Knowing phone calls would be difficult at best, I left her with several things to comfort her when she was sad and strengthen her when she was afraid—a photo of us, some notes to read, and the reminder we would be praying for her. I also tried to reassure her by telling her, “We’ll be back before you know it.” After all, we were only going to be gone a little while. A little while. The phrase is used seven times in John 16. Jesus, preparing his disciples for his death, said, "A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16). At the thought of Jesus leaving, the eleven disciples were like my daughter: they were afraid, sad, and worried. Not only did Jesus reassure them with the certainty they would see him again, he also promised them he would leave them three things: his Spirit, his joy, and his peace.