Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Quiet Peace: Waiting for Peace

About the author: Sarah Plowman does campus ministry at the University of Iowa with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. 

For most of 2011, God has been taking me on a wild ride of inner healing and transformation. Although it has been painful, I've felt more alive this year than I can remember ever feeling before. The work he has been doing is hard, but oh so good. Which is why I was puzzled when the crucible-like experiences all but faded away this fall. In a way, it was as if God went suddenly quiet and still in my personal life. I didn't understand it, but when a co-worker suggested perhaps he is giving me a season of rest after such deep soul work, it made sense. 

What also began to make sense was that a pause from the pain in my own life allowed me to be present to the pain in others. This fall, several of my friends have been experiencing real, raw brokenness and pain in their lives. In the last two weeks, Jesus has allowed me to walk side by side with one of these friends, and in the process, I've learned new things about "quiet peace." 

My friend has battled anxiety for a number of years, and this fall has been particularly hard. I feel small and powerless in the face of years of unanswered questions, confusion, and dead-end paths of possible solutions and cures. I've listened, mostly in quiet and silence, as my friend has shared about trying again and again to find a way out, and yet still remains trapped. 

I know the only true answer is Jesus, and the peace that passes all understanding that guards our hearts and minds in his name. And I fully believe that ours is a God of resurrection, of rescue, a God who, as my favorite Christmas carol says, comes to "...ransom captive Israel, who mourns in lonely exile here...". Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus' sweet Spirit, the antidote to all the mess in this world. My head knows the answers, and my heart believes them, and yet it's been a challenge these weeks to stand up time and time again in the face of fear, anxiety, and confusion and continue to confidently offer God's peace. 

I've needed to practice a bit of personal rest and retreat in these weeks, too, to ensure that the anxiety my friend experiences doesn't make its home in me as well. I've always loved Advent, and it's been a sweet delight and peaceful refuge to quiet myself in time spent with Jesus next to the fireplace, in the soft glow of the Christmas lights, listening to instrumental piano and guitar music. Or in time spent at night before I fall asleep, sitting on my bed in silence, composing a few lines of poetry in my journal about the nature of stillness and God's peace. 

I long for my friend to experience that peace as well. Like the psalmist, I find myself asking, "How long, O Lord?" ...until this friend is granted the rest and peace found only in you? ...until confusion and anxiety has to flee? ...until you will ransom this captive mind, soul, heart? 

I don't have answers to those questions either. And so I continue into advent, in this my own unique season of waiting on behalf of several friends and their pain. Waiting for the peace Jesus brings. And grateful for the ways he is faithful to continue to complete the good, hard, transformative and healing work he begins in my life and in their lives as well.