My sister Barbara has a granddaughter Autumn who is just five
months older than our Katyana. Autumn hits all the milestones just
before Katyana does. The latest is crawling. Barbara laughed as
she told me that Autumn would start to crawl one direction, then
decide on another and turn, then decide to go another until she
totally frustrated herself trying to go all directions at once.
Autumn is not all that different from the rest of us. We start to do
one task, then something else comes to mind and we drop it and
start something else. We can go through a day leaving nothing but
half-finished tasks in our wake. Or we can start through life with
one priority, then take on another and another until we really have
no priorities at all. Our divided minds and hearts and values
frustrate us and keep us from the peace Jesus would have us know,
What is peace within? It has to do with integrity--oneness, a single
mind and direction. It has to do with priorities and choices.
Long ago, at the beginning of the Israelite nation, Joshua challenged
Godâ€™s people, â€œChoose for yourselves this day whom you
will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the
River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.
But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lordâ€�
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, challenged his listeners not to
worry about food or clothes, but to â€œseek first his kingdom and
his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as wellâ
€� (Matthew 6:33).
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Philippians, said, â€œOne thing I
do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I
press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called
me heavenward in Christ Jesusâ€� (Philippians 3:13-14).
And James, in his letter to the Jews of the dispersion, wrote that
anyone who lacks wisdom should ask God for it. â€œBut when he
asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like
a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should
not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-
minded man, unstable in all he doesâ€� (James 1:5-8).
The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard made a similar point in a short
book titled Purity of Heart is To Will One Thing. If we stop trying
to go all directions at once and choose a single priority in our lives,
we will know peace within ourselves.
None of the carols we sing at Christmas quite fits this theme, but
one hymn took on special meaning for me when Frank was
stationed on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin. I was studying
and working on the old Pepperdine College campus in South Los
Angeles, an area torn by racial strife. I felt alone and frightened for
Frankâ€™s safety, as well as my own. We sang this hymn by E. H.
Bickersteth often at the Vermont Avenue church:
Peace! Perfect Peace! in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
Peace! Perfect Peace! with loved ones far away?
In Jesusâ€™ keeping we are safe, and they.
Peace! Perfect Peace! our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and he is on the throne.
It is enough: earthâ€™s struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heavenâ€™s perfect peace.