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It was a rare day off in the middle of the work week.
What to do? What to do?
My husband had called dibs on the computer and I had already caught up on the antics of the Real Housewives of both New York and New Jersey.
The only thing left to do was go out and get into a fight.
Actually, fighting topped my list, trumping reading online pop culture blogs, trumping even shopping for clothes I don’t need.
Beyond anything else I felt the need to fight - fight for peace, for the shalom of my soul.
I remembered about a year ago when a friend and I went to a place called Sholom Park. Sholom, or shalom, is the Hebrew word for peace.
My friend and I had gone there partially to make fun of the solemn, sacred, “we are one with Nature” religiosity of the place, but we did find a sense of serenity there.
Quiet is strongly encouraged - you’re not permitted to chatter and make noise as you walk the winding paths through the woods and gardens and around the lake. No yippy dogs, no yammering kids, no loud music, although I don’t recall seeing any noise police.
It was a perfect place for me to get into a fight.
So, that’s where I headed on my middle of the week day off.
As I approached the park, a black truck behind me going too fast made me miss the entrance, which made me growl and inflamed the fight in me, making me even more determined to put on my walking shoes and get to the source of my aggression.
It was quiet when I arrived. The sun was hot and the air still. Mosquitoes bit my arms and legs. I almost didn’t stay, but I remembered the fight. I remembered the need to fight.
It was quiet, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be that quiet.
Quiet is often paired with peace, but they’re not synonymous. Sometimes quiet brings unpeace, inward turmoil and chaos as it magnifies our own thoughts.
Noise helps us not think. Not thinking pushes away pain and guilt and shame and feelings of unworthiness and disappointment. But not thinking is sometimes hard work.
Sometimes the work that goes into not thinking makes you want to fight for something else, something better.
A sign at the beginning of one of the paths read: “Notice what you notice,” which I don’t do too often.
I noticed several enormous spider webs spanning branches of a small tree. No spiritual significance to that, not that I know of anyway. But I noticed it.
The path I took kept coming to forks. Arbitrarily, I kept going right. (I like to be right.) But then I took a turn and ended up off the paved path and on a dirt and rocky uphill part of the backside of the park, which felt disconcerting. Not shalomy at all.
It reminded me of a conversation I had a week or so ago with someone at church. We talked about how sometimes we wander into a dusty place, eating dirt and mud and not liking it, but not really wanting to do anything about it to change, not yet anyway, although we know we eventually will because if God has begun a good work in you, he will finish it - and the finish always ends with incredible feasting.
Once I got back on the paved path I stopped at the lake and watched two crane-like birds cavorting. One of them dive-bombed from a tree into the water and I hoped to see it spear a fish, but it didn’t.
After that I walked through the woods and gave God an earful of my grievances.
That was the fight I had felt earlier, the fight to reconnect with God. It had been a while since I had been quiet in God’s presence and I had felt agitated, unmoored. The culture around me and my own sin nature had long been robbing me of all that is good and pure and lovely.
I believe it was God’s Spirit that ignited the fight in me, the fight to not forget, to re-remember that God is a refuge from all the unpeace and ungrace, the unlove and unloveliness, the unmercy, uncaring, unforgiveness and ungoodness of life.
Once we were enemies of God, but because of Jesus, we are his friends. On God’s part, we always have his peace. He never takes his shalom away. Any non-peace we experience is because we’ve turned our back on it by chasing after other, lesser things.
But even then, God will fight for us. He throws the first punch at all that tries to come between him and his children, and he always wins.
And because he wins, we win. We win the peace. We win the fight for shalom.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at( 352) 564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.