On Passing Up Peace and Other Things I Don’t Know I Need
“You’ll feel better after you take your medicine,” I tell my feverish little boy. He’s not buying it. Cherry flavored Tylenol®. Yummy grape Advil®, Chewable tablets. It makes no difference. His lips are sealed.
Persuasion fails. Force feeding ends in sputtering and crying. More is spit out than swallowed.
He finally sleeps and feels better in the morning.
As he sits to eat his cereal, he notices the medicine bottle and remarks, in little kid speak, “Wah-member when I not want to eat dat medicine and I cried?”
“Um, yeah bud. I remember.”
“Could I have some now?”
Are you kidding me?! Could I strangle you about now? “No, bud. You don’t need it now.” (insert eye-rolling, teeth-clenching emoji)
Honestly. Kids! They want what they don’t need. And refuse the things they do.
All the Shiny Things
My little guy wanted the wrong thing. Or the right thing at the wrong time. So annoying.
So like me.
Sarah Young writes as though Jesus were speaking directly to us.
“To receive My [Jesus’] Peace, you must change your grasping, controlling stance to one of openness and trust. The only thing you can grasp without damaging your soul is My Hand.” — in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
Sometimes I shut out God’s peace as decisively as my boy shuts out his medicine.
I don’t do the kicking and screaming — usually.
I don’t mean to run from Peace. I’m just busy. My mind and hands are full. There’s no room. Even for the Thing I need most.
My hands clench my calendar. I need that calendar! Can’t be late. Can’t forget anything. If I can nail my evening routine, the morning will go better. If I can do that, then I’ll feel in control. Life will be calm. Manageable.
My hands are full of all the things I’m juggling. I can’t exactly open them right now.
Clenched fists cannot accept another thing. To receive Peace from God, I may need to drop some things I’ve been holding tightly.
Let it Drop
“Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need” — Rich Mullins
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in You. — Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
The Message says it this way.
“People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole”. — Isaiah 26:3 (The Message)
Perfect peace. Complete wholeness. Sounds pretty good, right?
To set my mind on Jesus, to trust him steadfastly, I will have to stop some of my usual thinking patterns.
My mind gets cluttered with all the things. Replaying a conversation. Fretting over an upcoming commitment. Carrying a friend’s problems. Searching for a parenting tactic that will make that kid move faster in the morning. Collecting knowledge — all those summits and masterclasses and workshops.
The messages we feed our brain shape our thoughts.
To “set my mind on Jesus”, I’ll need inputs that remind me who He is, what he’s done, how much he loves me, how much he loves someone else. Forgetting is easy. Remembering takes intention.
I can ask God for help as I retrain my thinking, renewing my mind. (Romans 12:2)
Kick the Idols
“Idols are the things that rattle us when they’re threatened.” — Jennifer Phillips
As a kid, I was perplexed by the Israelites. They melted a glob of gold and made it look like a baby cow. (Exodus 32)
Did they seriously think that thing could do anything for them? A golden calf wasn’t going to bail them out of their mess. It wouldn’t get them out of the desert and take them to their happy place. I could see that and I was just a kid.
I’d never worship an idol, I thought.
But Tim Keller says, “An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”
While successfully avoiding golden calves, I may have collected some idols after all. I call them “priorities”. It sounds better.
My learning. Being smart. Looking smart. Having my stuff together. Appearing to have my stuff together. Competence. I want to do this well — be it work or parenting or life, in general. Independence — asking for help feels awkward. My kids or lack of, my spouse or absence of, my home, my travel, my career — any of these can define me.
And I do get rattled when that defining thing is threatened.
Making Room for Peace
Openness and trust look an awful lot like surrendering control.
An open posture means our hands can’t be full or grabbing. Trust grows as we reflect more on God and less on ourselves. Idols are unmasked when we consider why we are rattled. What is threatened by this situation and why does it bother me so much?
Peace comes to those open to receiving it.
Are there concerns or responsibilities weighing on you that aren’t yours to carry? Offload them. Open those hands to receive something better.
A Mind that Trusts God
Think about things that are true. Pay attention to your thought patterns this week.
When you catch yourself believing a lie, stop. Remind yourself of something true instead. Let’s practice:
- “If my kitchen is a mess, I’m a failure.” — Not True. You may feel less scattered with less visual clutter, sure. But a mess in your home does not make you a mess.
- The Lord “is good; his love endures forever” — True. This exact phrase shows up 11 times in the Bible. God knew we need frequent reminders!
- “I need to control my kids’ actions at all times” — Not True. We can set expectations, encourage, correct, even reward and punish, but control is never on the table.
- God cares about us, loves us even when we want nothing to do with him. — True. Romans 5:8
- He’s faithful, whether we are or not. — True. 2 Timothy 2:13
- I need to look good to make God look good. — Not True. People are attracted to real and suspicious of polished. God is much bigger than that.
No true statement about God begins with “If I…”. He is who He is. It doesn’t depend on you or me. Isn’t that refreshing?
The things that define us, “that rattle us when they’re threatened”, those are our idols. What we treasure — what we value most — shapes what we say, what bothers us, what gets us excited.
Pay attention when you get flustered this week. Ask, “Why does this matter so much?” Identifying your motivations can be eye-opening. Uncovering those idols may be the first step to getting free of unwanted knee-jerk responses.
Am I freaking out because my kids’ disobedience makes me look bad? (idol = appearances or my reputation) Am I screaming when things don’t go as planned? (idol = control. I want it.) Am I fuming because my writing time is interrupted? (idol = productivity. Feeling useful.)
Don’t be like my kicking, screaming preschooler.
Start with open hands. Feed your mind truth, not lies. Pay attention to what’s really bothering you when you’re frustrated. Then you’ll be more ready to receive the medicine you need, be it peace, acceptance, grace, or a course correction.
Let me know what you discover.