Last year, on Black Friday, I finally decided I would apply to some grad schools just to see what happened…and then realized I had to email my undergrad professors asking them to write recommendations during the maelstrom of final exams and Christmas preparations. (They were incredibly gracious and did.)
This year, I celebrate Thanksgiving in Scotland after months of a pandemic by having my last class focus on laughter, levity, and comedy and finishing a paper on the portray of good and evil in fantasy. Every year since graduating from college has been like this – every holiday, I look back on last year and marvel at what God has given me. Despite the terrible things that have happened this year, He has been so good.
Loren Warnemuende‘s contribution to the Thresholds project reminds me of the goodness of God and our responsibility to be peacemakers in a turbulent world. Her wise, calm, loving voice inspires and challenges me to look for real peace (not conflict avoidance) in my relationships. Enjoy!
by Loren Warnemuende
A year or so ago I thought I should find out more about Enneagrams since they’re a big deal to a number of friends of mine. I took a little quiz online, agreed with the assessment, and promptly forgot what number it said I was. Recently my sister, who is more up on this phenomenon, told me that I was a 9 and one reason was that I’m a peacemaker.
Well, I thought, I’ll go for that.
After all, who doesn’t want to be a peacemaker? It seems particularly meaningful this year when the world is struggling with “How to Navigate a Pandemic” and my country has lurched through a crazy election cycle where it seems half of the country says we’re set, and the other half claims nothing is settled.
I want bring peace and calm people down. I want to speak words that will make everyone smile and say, “Oh! How silly we’ve been to get so angry with each other. Let’s sit down and have dinner. Light the bonfire and we’ll roast marshmallows instead of throwing our neighbor’s reputation or health into the heat of the flames.”
In my head, I speak the voice of reason and peace, a clear bell that tolls on a cold morning.
If only I could live happily alone in my head. Sadly, there are two obstacles to that.
First of all, there is the reality that I want to be liked by those around me. I play at peacemaking with my more casual friends. I listen to someone, smiling and nodding, even when I completely disagree with them. Worse, the reason I stay silent is my fear of stirring up conflict instead of my true care for the person. I question my own understanding to the point that I don’t challenge something that I see as untrue because I want the person to like me.
Second, there’s the truth of how I relate to those I love and feel completely secure in their love for me. This shows up with my husband, but primarily with my children. With them my words are sometimes like the blossoms on the camellia bush behind our house here in East Texas. Each year it blooms around Thanksgiving—rich, abundant blossoms the bees love. But the blossoms are bright pink, and they clash with the sere vines and leaves of orange and brown and red. The blooms are right for the bush, but wrong for the surroundings, just as my words truly reflect my state of mind, but don’t do anything to help others change in the way I think they should. I may be speaking pure truth, but it doesn’t settle the turmoil. It exacerbates it.
So much for finding peace within myself. I feel as divided inside as my country is outside of me. I am fractured and discordant, longing to be made whole, to be at peace with myself as well as with others. I am balanced on an edge, looking across a threshold into what could be, what will be someday.
But then I hear a call from the One who took all my confused messy pieces and replaced them with Himself: “Take my yoke upon you, for I am gentle and humble, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29 & 30
Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s the time we roast the turkey with Mom’s chestnut stuffing, savor the cranberry sauce, and inhale sweet potato casserole and Grandma’s pumpkin pie. It’s supposed to be the time when families and friends unite and feast. A time when we give thanks to God for what he has provided. A time of peace.
It seems a contrary thing to celebrate this year. There has been so much sorrow through sickness and death. There has been more sorrow through isolation and division due to quarantine and conflicting ideologies. Some families are separated this year because of distance, health, or mandates. Just last week my kids and I had a cold and had to get a Covid test because my parents were supposed to fly down for Thanksgiving. For twenty-four hours we didn’t know if they could still come. We were relieved when we tested negative, but I’ve still second-guessed all of our plans, wondering if we should have let my parents travel in this season to begin with. Yet our upheaval only related to physical issues.
Some families are apart because they can’t see past different views to common ground. They don’t know how to love each other despite the differences. The season is anything but peaceful, and there seems little reason to be thankful.
I want people to be happy, and thankful, and at peace. I want to respond to everyone around me with gentleness and kindness. But I can’t force that. The power is not in me to change hearts and minds. It never was. I can only rest in the one who shares His yoke with me. I have to learn from Him. The only thing I can do is encourage others to find that restful yoke as well.
Oddly, that very suggestion can disrupt the peace more than having a different view about how to handle pandemics or politics. Jesus, after all, is highly controversial. But His is the one truth that I can’t give up, because it is the only truth that actually brings peace.
Jesus Himself is our peace, and He is the one who can break down the walls of hostility and unite us, but that is because He died for us (Ephesians 2:14). It is only through His death and resurrection that we can truly have peace with each other. Christ died for me, for my pride, my fear, my pandering, for my spitefulness and temper. In place of my offenses He gave me His yoke, and He says He’ll give me rest with it. He teaches me slowly and gently to be more like Him, the only true peacemaker.
That’s something I can be thankful for.
When she was in fourth grade, Loren won a story-writing contest and decided that she’d grow up to be a writer. Since then God has led her into many roles including wife to her Renaissance man, Kraig, and mom and teacher to their three kids. Loren also teaches Worldview and Bible to high schoolers in a homeschool co-op, and adults at church. Through all these roles writing has been a source of hope and a way to share the stories and big ideas that fill her mind and heart. Loren lived most of her life in Michigan, but now calls East Texas home. You can find more of her sporadic writing on her blog Willing, Wanting, Waiting…..