The young man wished our entire subway car a peaceful Sabbath as he left; “Shalom Aleichem!” Peace be upon you.
There have been few seasons of my life in which I wasn’t trying to find peace. That word, in our language, echoes so strongly of lack of conflict that most human lives cannot hope to achieve the idyllic state it implies. Lack of conflict requires pleasurable circumstances; security, happiness, love, comfort, stability, certainty—near perfection.
If this is the peace we’ve been promised, we’ll be striving after it for a long time.
But I’ve seen peace, longed for and found, and fortunately it’s something more than a moment of desirable earthly circumstances. It’s shalom.
Strong’s describes shalom as a state of completeness, wholeness, health, peace, contentment and friendship. We pray for it, hope it will come, look for it in the corners of our lives, bully ourselves with the thought that if only we had more faith we would find peace. But shalom isn’t a commodity God intended us to search out, it’s a gift he’s already bestowed on us.
At this point in my life, my circumstances are not providing me with security, stability or certainty. I often lack a feeling of peace. But I’m finding great comfort in the knowledge that I have shalom. My identity is one of wholeness and completion.
Isaiah looked forward to a Messiah who would be sar shalom, Prince of Peace, the embodiment of the wholeness he longed to bring his people. Since Jesus made his tabernacle among us we have had peace. What sweet relief that shalom doesn’t need to be found, manufactured, or prayed into existence; it is ours, and we need only recover it. We may have to sift through the rubble of an abandoned dream or plumb the darkness of our circumstances without a visible flicker of light. The tranquil feeling and lack of conflict we associate with peace may be nowhere to be found. But sar shalom has spoken peace over us, and it is ours. We are complete, whole, and full.
In a broken world, shalom lies somewhere in the realm of ‘already and not yet.’ Later this week I’ll be following up with a post on our role as peacemakers intended to bring the shalom of Jesus into the world in tangible ways.