“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26: 3)
In his character. In his saving mercy and grace. In his love.
Yet, so many things can chip away at our peace if we let them.
Troubles and distractions fly into our days threatening to disturb that place of calm from which the peace of Christ may flow. Fluttering of busyness and cluttering of his mission with unnecessary sidetracks trip us up. Rattled thoughts may swirl about our minds with a maddening drip. Such things uncover our masks and peck away at the serenity which comes from resting in him.
A pileated woodpecker recently flew into the backyard and drew attention in its search for carpenter ants hidden beneath hardened bark. The still morning peace was punctuated with a resounding drumming of determined effort to mark the focus of our mindfulness. The quiet hum of insects and gentle songbird songs became hard to hear above its rhythmic beating, the effects of its pecking being heard all around, percussive script announcing resistance of beak on wood throughout the area.
We want to rise above annoying commentary which tries to niggle and pry loose our sense of calm. And although we may naturally experience persistently pecking voices as an irritating pressure, as a noisy pounding stressor, we know that residual pieces of ego entrapments which take offence are slowly chipped away by faithful engagement with these strange sounds of grace, transformed into patient beauty when we focus on Christ. He uses such things to help us let go of spiritually soft wood exposed in the exchange and embrace the hardwood of the cross, dying to self, rising in him.
Hard knocks hurt, yet they show us things we would otherwise find hard to see.
When difficult dilemmas knock at the doors of our days, we may at times respond with wooden stoicism and fail to let the beacon of his light truly chip away our own defences with greater trust. When we observe the shattering of peace, the wreckage of pileated pride and humiliated sides striking out in repeated scorn, we may want to plug our ears to what we hear around us and within. When we witness continual attention drawn to imperfections, we may simply weep as people peek past every spark of respect for one another with sharpened beaks of judgement.
And we may want to scream, only adding to the noise.
But Jesus’ form of servant leadership was shaped by blows he took upon himself without a hint of hiding from the whipping, gripping noise. A portrait of silent peace before watching eyes and listening ears when he was pierced though with wooden spears to take away the antics of our sin hangs before the world in gospel witness.
Self portraits selectively reveal and conceal certain things about the subject. But an objective portrayal of a person often exposes truths hidden deep inside where destructive attitudes eat away the good wood of fruitfulness unseen. Such Spirit led observations lead through the chatter of distraction with a profound ability to speak to us when we linger, when we step back and reflect on what we see, when we listen to what we hear, when we are in touch with new layers of our need and respond with healing confession.
If we will strain to hear the inner whisper of the Spirit speaking words of peace beneath the drills of onslaught bearing down, words about the pieces of our broken hearts which have not yet been heard for what they are and then released into his greater will beneath the beating blows, we will come to know what keeps us from living in the peace that is ours to know at all times and discover a new self portrait framed in truth which resonates the hope of heaven here and now to those both near and far.
A quick glance only and we miss the more.
We miss the chips of God’s loving, probing word falling where they may to remove what needs to go and show us our true selves in Jesus Christ chiseled into the palm of his hands upon the tree as sinful people now set free.
A piece of art reflecting the image of Christ in us. A true self portrait of peace.
What might we be trying to silence today that God is wanting to use to speak a deeper truth that will ultimately bring the blessing of peace?
‘Lord Jesus, we invite you to use the tools of a wood worker’s trade to chip away all inner rot from antics which deceive ourselves and rob us of your peace no matter what perches nearby in the woods of our worrisome tasks as servant leaders. Let pieces of persistent barriers to serenity in our lives fall to the ground of submission in light of who you are. Carve your character upon our souls. With the sound of justice and mercy meeting in the thud of nails and chips of a cross falling under their blows, we surrender to your love which will not fail to do what it must do to feed and save our souls.
When things fly into our lives which challenge either our self-understanding or a faithful understanding of the church and world for whom you died, lovingly uphold us when we cry for relief from the pain such newly found truths reveal until we hear the underlying sounds of the Holy Spirit saying beneath the chiselling checks and balances of spiritual formation shaped by the word, ‘Peace be with you, my precious servant.’ Amen.’