I believe we are all trying to find our place, and sometimes it’s along the path, where we really see growth and God’s work.
Speaking of God, I haven’t attended church often this Summer… Ok God, not at all! I have felt out of balance in so many ways over the last several months, and when I walked through the church doors a few weeks ago, I had a mix of emotion.
What I hoped for was guidance, but what I feared I would get was guilt, the guilt of not showing up.
I felt a sense of belonging, almost home-like, when the service began. We sang as a community and paused to say hello to one another. But it wasn’t until our pastor, Paul, began to preach that my heart fully opened and I stopped caring about the whispers I feared my pew neighbors might be making about my in-attendance. When Paul began to explain that we were continuing our worship series on “the spirited life” and referenced the following scripture:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians. 5:22)
I was quickly taken back to sweet memories of Charlie. The last summer Charlie was on Earth, while attending VBS, he learned a song called, “The fruit of the Spirit.” He thought it was hilarious, fruit could not be the Spirit of God! So naturally we sang it all the time. I could hear him giggle every time he sang his favorite part: “the fruit of the Spirit’s not a coconut, if you want to be a coconut, you might as well hear it, you can’t be the fruit of the Spirit.” As he said the words “coconut” he would knock on his head with his fist, make a clicking sound and giggle, stopping to tell me each time, “Mom, you know my head doesn’t really have a nut inside, it’s my brain!”
As I brought myself back to the present, I found myself saying, ”Hey Charlie!” and “Yep, God… You got me… I’m listening.” I knew God was giving me a Glimpse of Heaven, of Charlie, to remind me, He hasn’t gone anywhere, never left and never will.
So God’s got my full attention as Pastor Paul began to speak on the fruit of Peace. He described peace as something that can not be found around us, but within us. It is like balancing a cup on your head, if you focus inward, you can likely keep it stable, but when you allow outside factors to influence your concentration, the cup can easily fall. For me, it was another moment of “Ok, yes God, I hear you!” You see, peace is something that is a continuous struggle for me, even before for Charlie died, but especially since his death.
God said, in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
We must carve out a space for peace within us, even as the chaos of the world is around us. We may find peace for just a few minutes a day, as life throws us constant curve balls through tantruming toddlers, frustrating coworkers or incessant traffic that continue to destabilize us. We may flow in and out of peace in specific areas of our life. For me, I flow in and out of peace surrounding our family, our purpose on this Earth and not knowing why Charlie was taken for us… and tantruming toddlers (not sure I will ever be able to carve out even a moment of peace in that!)
But the point is peace is a state of being, not something we can find, buy or even hope for. We have to be willing to change our hearts and minds to find peace. We have to be willing to take deep breaths, pause, reflect and ask God for help when our external world has turned upside down. And we have to be willing to keep working for peace when life continues to challenge us.
As Pastor Paul concluded his sermon, I realized that peace is often achieved but rarely maintained because as humans we are a continuous work in progress. But God is here to help us and even when we (I) feel guilty that we haven’t shown up, it’s OK. God’s up there saying, “It’s all good. I am with you. I am always with you.” And with a few deep breaths and a quiet prayer, we can find peace in the comfort of knowing God is there.