Open Hands: Thoughts on Pursuing Peace

Back in December, my dear friend Emma asked if I would be a featured writer for a blog she’s been putting together on the topic of peacemaking and protest, a blog that seeks to discuss the concept of young Christians as the prophets of current society. Of course, I was tickled at the prospect of being a guest blogger, though I was entirely unsure of what I had to say on the topic.

Peace, I thought. Peace would be a really great thing to have in my life right now. At the time I was struggling rather fiercely to let go of something that I didn’t actually have control over in the first place. And by struggling to let go, I mean my hands were clenched shut tighter than a jam jar sealed in its own stickiness. Life wasn’t going my way. It wasn’t following the path that it quite evidently and clearly should. My parents saw it. My friends saw it. I saw it. But God hadn’t quite caught on.

I resolved to pursue peace and come back to the blog after I had a little more experience, after I’d done some deep breathing and careful meditating, after I’d clued God in on what needed to happen in my life. I’m gonna get me some peace and then I’m gonna write about it. I let the request sit in my inbox as I waited to reach a new level of acceptance. As I waited for God to make things all better.

He didn’t. And neither did I. I know you’re shocked to hear that. I was too. Dumbfounded in fact. How could God be so slow on the uptake? Why was it taking so long for God to work redemption and restoration between two people who both loved Jesus and cared about one another? Didn’t God realize that I was on a deadline? That I needed to experience peace and reconciliation soon, before it was too late to be a guest writer on my friend’s blog?

But here’s the thing about peace. The first step in experiencing it is not attaining it, but desiring it. And the first step in desiring it is often noting its absence in your life (or in the world). Not always, but often.

Here’s another thing about peace. It doesn’t usually come on your terms. Peace isn’t the end result of getting everything you want. That’s satisfaction. Peace isn’t the absence of pain. That’s comfort. Peace isn’t even the opposite of war or conflict. Peace is serenity. It doesn’t ignore pain. It doesn’t accept injustice as a part of life. It lives in all of those cold and hard and difficult places. It questions cruelties and judgement. But it does so with open hands.

What must that be like, to live with your hands open? Neither grasping for what you want or clinging to what you have, but accepting and offering in one and the same breath all of the blessing that God has given you. I have met people who live in peace. They are amazing. Tranquility seems to seep from their pores. Sometimes I ask the peaceful people how they got to be so peaceful. Their bottomless eyes peer into my soul, they breathe a deep breath and assure me that peace is a hard-won surrender. Pursuing peace is like standing on one leg, stretching out both arms and finding your center of balance as you rise onto the ball of your foot. Every once in a while I reach it and then I falter. Balance takes practice. So does peace.

Once you hold peace you don’t need to hold anything else. In fact, you may not be able to. I can only speculate at this point, but I would imagine that peace is so big, so encompassing, that it takes all of you to embody it. And once you embody it, you can spread it to others, watering their souls like a massive canister of Miracle Grow.

It starts with a breath and a release. A belief in your capacity to hold serenity and a loosening of your need for power, for control. Peace does not give up on reconciliation, but neither does it insist on it. Desire, but don’t grasp. Accept, but don’t cling. Open hands. Open.

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