On Friday night, we sat in a high school auditorium beneath the flutter of paper doves and peace signs dangling on strings. The theme of my children’s annual holiday show was peace on earth.
There were musical performances from around the world. I was glad the first-graders were assigned the United States, though somehow my little boy and I still managed to clash over which sweater and which pair of blue jeans he would wear.
There was a video tribute to the victims in Paris. Then the head of school remembered the even more recent tragedy in California. While hundreds of childish voices swelled in song, I thought, Maybe we should recall the politicians and put the schoolkids in charge?
On the drive home, a small voice piped up from the backseat, “What happened in California?”
On Saturday morning, I dragged a bag of garbage out toward the shed. The air was frosted pink and blue, and each blade of grass was edged in white. Halfway across the lawn I stumbled over some contraption hammered together with scrap wood and nails. Shifting it with my foot, I recognized a military gun. My boys had been fighting imaginary battles again.
I don’t know what that kind of weapon is called, but my nine-year-old son could tell you. He reads a lot of history. He knows a great deal about war.
On Sunday, we lit the second Advent candle, the candle of peace. Or, we tried to. An argument broke out between my younger son on one side of the table and my firstborn girl on the other. As quickly as he lit the candle, she blew it out. Light the candle. Blow it out.
“It’s not your turn,” someone hissed.
That same Sunday morning, I had read an article in the newspaper about the band U2. They were preparing to perform the Paris concerts that had been cancelled in the immediate wake of the attacks. Their stage show features the sounds of a car bomb, recalling the violence that Bono and his band knew as adolescents in Ireland.
Bono said, “Peace is the opposite of dreaming. It’s built slowly and surely through brutal compromises and tiny victories that you don’t even see. It’s a messy business bringing peace into the world. But it can be done, I’m sure of that.”
Peter had a sword. We have car bombs and semi-automatic guns. As humanity creates deadlier and deadlier weapons, turning the other cheek begins to look more and more ridiculous.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Perhaps that’s the root of our problem. We don’t want to be children.
We want to be heroes.
My nine-year-old son and I are a lot alike. We both love history. We are both dreamers. We both need a better story.
He needs to hear that laying down your life requires more bravery than defending it. I need to hear that peace is possible.
That it is even possible in my own home.
It is hard, especially in this culture (& the “evangelical” sub-culture of extended family) I find, to truly embrace the Prince of Peace.
My kids want to be the heroes and rescue the princess (or prince for my daughter) and there are many epic battles in our yard. Thank you for this reminder about true heroism.
I struggle with the desire to defend my family and the laying down of life. I have no problem with saying I’d give my life to protect my kids, but the mama bear in me would also want to STOP whomever would try to hurt them. I guess it comes down to trusting Him to do what is right by my family. Anyone else struggle with this?
I do, Kimberly, I do. The only thing I can think to pray is “Lord, do not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear.”
Hi Christie, I always enjoy reading you. You make me think.
In regard to Jesus’ teaching on turning the other cheek, I have a little different take on that if you’ll allow me. In regard to several other verses around that teaching, to me he’s saying don’t let minor offenses bother you. If the evil man curses at you, show him you’re big enough to take it and not retaliate by cursing him back. If a force much greater than myself wants to take me away, willingly go with them as Jesus would have done. I should not go kicking and screaming, for this would not show much of Christ’s composure or his faith.
But does this mean if an evil man breaks into our homes with a weapon and with the intent of raping and murdering our family, that we’re simply to let him? I don’t think so. For these are not minor offenses like a simple slap on the cheek or being cursed at. Are we not to love our neighbor as ourselves? And it’s certainly not showing much love for ourselves or our family to allow rape and murder if we have a way of preventing it.
Anyway, that’s my take on it. Maybe I’m wrong here, but if Jesus were here in the flesh, and we asked him if someone was going to do serious harm to a friend or family member, and we have a way of preventing it, what would he have us do? Considering that love also involves protection, I think I have a pretty good idea about how he would answer.
Take care and God bless,
~ Larry Ebaugh
Larry, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your thoughtful response. I know many agree with your conclusions – they are certainly reasonable. I’m not sure why I am having a harder time with reasonable answers these days, but I am. It is such a dark time in our world, isn’t it? I know we pray together that the light of Christ will shine in us and through us and all around us for a dark and wounded world.
The hard stuff of life gets so beautifully put in your words, Christie, and I know you are not trying to slap any answers down. This is a deep breath.
oh my heart
All of things together – isn’t that how it so often comes peace and war with big and little ‘p’, big and little ‘w’ and always the voice calling us to something deeper. BTW, I ordered a couple of your children’s book recommendations from your last post. Thanks for sharing.
So many pieces I can’t put together. I could have told this exact story – from the 9-yr-olds and their pretend battles to the little ones fighting over the peace candle.
Peace feels so far away these days.
Oh, you keep speaking my heart. Thank you for your beautiful words.
Christie – Many of these same kinds of events have converged in our own home and community over the past few weeks. I think we are all struggling with what it means to be at war and what it means to be at peace. Many of us are afraid and confused, and self-preservation can be a stronger force than love sometimes.
Thank you for the way you put these things together. They are beautiful.
Thank you, Charity. I am so glad to have you here reading along.
And I am looking forward to reading more fro your blog.