Feb20TueA Salvation Army chaplain reflects on finding peace in the midst of chaos. February 20, 2018 by Jordan Shaw
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
We humans like control. We like some semblance of order and balance to our lives. These desires are not wrong in and of themselves but, like any desire, they can become disordered. Often we feel the need to control things that are inherently out of our reach. Our current era of instant-everything has convinced us that the more information we have the better off we will be, but if the last year of “fake news” and radically competing ideologies has taught us anything, it’s that more is not always better. Quantity is a poor substitute for quality.
What is a Christian to do? For me, the more I pay attention to the deluge of data being dumped on me from all directions, the more lost I feel. I obsess. I imagine futures (always apocalyptic) that may or may never come true. I get pulled into the morass of “current events” and “the news” and they become my god. Up-to-the-second information does not help me act; it merely overwhelms me with the futility of acting at all. The news becomes paralyzing.
When I remain rooted in the present, I begin to see God working in miraculous ways all around me.
If what I have just described resonates with you, if you hear something of yourself in my words, maybe some of the things that have helped me will also help you. As I started to work through my fear of what may happen in the world and my inability to do anything about it, a refrain began echoing through my head.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I only have two arms. I only have two feet. I am not the body of Christ. I am an arm, a foot or an eye. I was never designed to solve all of the world’s problems. I know I am not called to be a politician. Some things are out of my control and that’s OK. There is real value in learning to accept things as they are, rather than trying to force them to be the way I want them. This does not mean I am paralyzed, however, but it means I need to choose my causes wisely.
Grant me the courage to change the things I can. I am called to be a peacemaker within my own realm of control. I can sit with someone who has been wounded deeply, and I can share their pain. I can walk with someone who needs to know the love of Christ, and I can share that love. I can cry with someone who has lost a spouse to addiction, and I can laugh with someone who has 90 days clean. Sometimes this means turning off the news and focusing on what’s around me. This is where I am called.
And the wisdom to know the difference. The world wants me to believe there is nothing I can do. The powers and principalities of this world want us to be overwhelmed to the point that we choose self-soothing behaviour—whether drugs, alcohol, media or entertainment—over action. I confess that I have engaged in my own type of self-soothing, but I am also on a journey to becoming more aware of what I can do—what we can all do. We all have a role to play. I am not called to be a peacemaker in Myanmar, and you may not be called to work among addicts. But you are called to do something. You are called to act, as far as you are able. And more than anything, I believe you are called to be present.
To me, being present means acknowledging the importance of the people who are in our path today. Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 6:25: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” Focusing on the future means trying to take control, rather than trusting God. When I am present, I trust that God will open up the way before me, that he goes with me no matter what—in fact, that he is there already. I don’t need to fear the future.
When I am left to my own devices, I never imagine a future with Christ in it. My futures are always human-made and human-controlled. But when I remain rooted in the present, I begin to see God working in miraculous ways all around me. I begin to allow God to infiltrate my existence and control those things that are outside of my control. It is there that I find peace.
Jordan Shaw is a chaplain at The Salvation Army Vancouver Harbour Light.