End of the year hub-bub. Last minute Christmas shopping. Projects piling up, demanding to be finished by year’s end. Commitments. Social invitations and requests. Church events. Year-end giving solicitations streaming non-stop in the mail and email. And stress over the mounting credit card usage over the holidays. “Was that really a wise purchase?”
I woke up this morning a little stressed. Not the panicky kind; just the feeling of being a little over-stretched. Praying for God’s mercy and help in covering my already-dangerously extended finances. Yeah, nothing new there for most of us, right? And in the middle of my wildly rambling thoughts, even before my first cup of coffee, a word popped into my head. “Relax.” May have been God or maybe not. Maybe it was just me, reminding myself of truths I should already know so well. And I immediately caught an image of Jesus standing in a boat surrounded by rushing winds and tossing waves: “Peace. Be still.”
It’s possible Jesus used the word so often uttered by frenzied Hebrew parents to their children: “shekket!” Be quiet — or as we’d probably say in America, “shut up!”
The waves in our lives don’t always respond immediately like they did for him. This morning, that word applied more to me, to the raging winds inside my own head, more than to the external circumstances I was considering. And maybe that’s how it is most of the time. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Doesn’t mean problems and stressors suddenly vanish. It doesn’t mean we’re suddenly transported to fields of daisies, with sparkling streams and deer leaping in the distance. We know that. In fact we’re told from the outset, “in this world you will have trouble” — but we’re also encouraged, “don’t worry about tomorrow”, “be anxious for nothing”, “cast all your cares upon him.” It’s not about having a life of smooth sailing. It’s not about being organized and well-controlled, having all our ducks in a row, all the details worked out, or having our business properly taken care of. It’s about knowing that DESPITE all those things, we can relax. We’re not alone in all the mess, and these things can’t touch us deep inside unless we let them.
Some of those pressing issues in our lives will work themselves out with a little effort on our part. Like sudden storms, they eventually subside, and things return to normal. Some things won’t. Not everything works out the way we’d like, and some things get broken beyond repair. But that’s okay. If we can somehow manage to lift our eyes off the waves crashing around us, if we can focus on the bigger picture — Jesus in the boat with us, and his unshakeable, eternal love buried deep inside us — maybe those waves wouldn’t torment us as much. Is that truth gonna pay my bills, or sort out the priorities on my task list? Probably not. But it does mean that I don’t have to freak out over them. I can keep my peace. I can keep a grip on my sanity, calm my nerves, take a deep breath, and shake the tendrils of those worries off my soul. I can choose to relax.
Hey, it’s not the most supernatural, earth-shattering revelation one can have. But this morning, even before my first cup of coffee, I can get a grip on my day before it gets a grip on me. I can tap into that divine source of stability and speak “shekket” over myself. And isn’t that part of the whole Christmas message? “On earth, PEACE.”
Jesus called this morning. He says he isn’t in your boat for nothing. He wants you to relax.