Peace be with you. And me.
One of my favorite qualities my friends have in common is that they are peaceful people. They bring a sense of calm and peacefulness when they come into a room. That is not to say that they are not feisty and fun, because they are both feisty AND fun. But there is an underlying sense of peace that follows them wherever they go. They bring that peace to their families, to their friendships, and the people they lead. It is present in their conversations and stories they tell. There is no escaping it. I have always been interested in this and a little envious. As someone who is easily fired up and has some angst, I love watching them as they make their way in the world.
For a long time, this sense of peace eluded me. In fact, I felt the opposite of peace. I do think I am naturally not super peaceful. I have to make an intentional effort to bring peace, rather than just bring my way of doing things. I have also often felt unsettled and confused about who I was, how I was gifted, and what I believed. I love leading and teaching. I believe that is how I am made by God and part of what I am made to do. I also believe that early on I became self-conscious because I didn’t see many other women in my community doing what I wanted to do, and if I did, they were not always celebrated or encouraged in their gifting. This began the war within myself. I spent a lot of time trying to think my way through this and come out with a solution that will please all parties involved and not make anyone feel uncomfortable. I wanted everyone to win. I don’t believe this silver bullet solution exists.
Instead, I have come to a place of understanding and compassion with myself and am a part of community that encourages me to use my gifts. I am married to a man who is not threatened by me, but instead encourages me to grow and learn. I am able to lead in the way that is true to how God made me. I have gone through (and continue) therapy and had really honest conversations with friends who spoke truth to me when I couldn’t for myself. I also got a little older and perhaps more secure and confident in who I am. And somehow, thankfully, I have been able to find peace in this area of my life that for so long had been missing. It was not like a moment of arrival, but more like a long journey with lots of twist, turns, and tiny steps. Definite progress, albeit slow sometimes.
For me, finding peace has forced me to turn away from the messages of our culture and towards the truth that comes from God and His Word. I have had to let go of other people’s expectations as a woman, a mother, a leader and a pastor’s wife. When it feels like the pressure is mounting or voices are shouting I remember one person, His name is Jesus. One thing I continue to see as interacts with people (especially women), is that He restores dignity by restoring justice and leveraging His status. Jesus is for you. Jesus is for women. As He engages with people there is not a sense of condemnation or not measuring up, He restores peace to their souls. He shows grace and love where there has been hurt and judgement. Watching Jesus’ example has helped me find peace in my own life.
Another thing that helped me was getting older. I think with some age behind me, I have learned that people are ready, willing, and eager (often unknowingly) to put tremendous pressure on women, rather than simply encouraging them or offering them grace. We have been trained to be skeptical and competitive. Occasionally back-biting, but more often sneaky and sly character assassinations that are understood and deemed acceptable. This is what I have had to let go of. I traded the control and the care of looking good or being understood for a confidence in who God has made me to be and what I am supposed to do. This has been freeing and brought me tremendous peace. That way of behaving doesn’t interest me, I have been there and done that, and now I regret it. I don’t have time for that and will not engage in it as a grown woman who is for other women.
Hopefully, I can be like my friends who wear peacefulness like a perfume, having it follow me around room to room. I want to make room for peace in my life now that I have found it. I am committed to reminding myself about the importance and value of peace. My life works better. I feel better. I am a better mom, wife, and friend when there is a sense of peace at my core. And now, I am able to help others find peace. I can see it when they are struggling or at war, I recognize the struggle like a familiar friend. My compassion has grown as I have found a new way. I want my kids to know the importance of being people who bring peace and who are at peace. I want them to know that they are made beautifully and uniquely by God, regardless of any other messages they might receive from this beautiful, but broken world full of beautiful but broken people. I want them to know they are not too much or not enough. They, just like you, are wonderfully and fearfully made in God’s image. With that deep understanding and belief, it should change everything about how we see ourselves and others. And how peace can and needs to be at the heart of it.