In my last post I reflected on the invitation to feast on God’s peace.
The problem is though that outside of Blog-World feasting on peace soon becomes a nag to eat our peas – or far worse (at least in my children’s view) our broccoli!
We all do it – but children are brilliantly blatant about it:
“I’m hungry Mummy”
“Would you like me to get you a cracker with some cheese / some carrot sticks / some toast and butter….?”
“No I am not hungry for that, I am hungry for chocolate cake!”
Often the grumble in our souls when we worry does not yearn to be satisfied by God’s peace, but by gaining some control, experiencing success, receiving praise, or simply by things getting a bit easier – finding a bit of comfort and relief amidst the pain and stress.
Last week, the day after posting Do Not Worry: an invitation or a rebuke?, I had what Anne Shirley* would call a Jonah Day.
My ongoing depression meant that the ground beneath my feet felt pretty wobbly even when things were going smoothly. We had a fruitful time in our bible study group, but it stirred something up in me that left me feeling churned and vulnerable and a bit unresolved. Over lunch the NTV and I got down to some ordering for The All or Nothing’s party and in my distraction I melted my brand new egg poacher by letting it boil dry. Well at least we had got the party order ready – I just had to process the payment…Hold on – the delivery for one of the items was going to be either late or cost more than the item itself! Start again…..lots of time wasted…running late. Left to collect the One and Only for her flute exam – forgot something, drove home, set off again….a warning light illuminates on the dashboard – uh oh – it’s the spanner – not good news ….and something is definitely not feeling right. Text NTV and pray he gets it. Pull over when NTV rings – arrange for him to collect the One and Only to meet me and swap cars. Flustered arrival at flute exam. Warm up didn’t go well. The One and Only disappears to do the exam and I am left emotionally shaking in the waiting room. My worry levels are through the roof. Talk about a rumbling tummy! My soul-belly is growling. Feast on God’s peace I tell myself. Take some slow, deep breaths and feast on God’s peace. Or at least nibble on a dry peace-cracker, and slowly sip on some peace-water while you calm down.
Feast on God’s peace!? Seriously? In all honesty my reaction to this exhortation to myself was similar to Miranda Hart’s indignation at the very existence of savoury muffins!
What I was flailing around for as I sat trembling in that church vestry listening to nervous children warming up before their exams, was not, I am ashamed to say, the peace of God. At that moment, the peace of God felt like a plate of cold, soggy brussel sprouts when what I wanted was the sugar-free equivalent of chocolate fudge cake.
[Oh if only there was one!]
I wanted the One and Only to walk into the room beaming that it was her best performance ever only to be interrupted in congratulating her by a text arriving to tell me that someone had offered to pay for the car to be repaired.
I am not proud of this reaction.
“The peace of God felt like a plate of cold, soggy brussel sprouts” – a bizarre phrase to have typed, but also horrifying. How can I be so self-centred, so ungrateful, such an idol-worshipper, so adulterous? I remind myself of Lydia Bennet in the 1990s BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice stamping her feet and whining: “Ohhhh, I want to go to Brighton!”
And yet the invitation graciously remained. Feast on God’s peace. Go on – try it….
Ok – I’ll have a bite – and so I prayed, and exhorted myself: “Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. And finally brother whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is praiseworthy, whatever is excellent, think upon such things….
Not a great rendition, but that is what ran through my head in that worry-full vestry.
Slowly, and very incompletely, my desires shifted. I was able to gaze on God and be fed as I reflected on his character and his love for me. Let’s be clear here – my view was anything but clear. The phrase “through a glass darkly” comes to mind – only with the added obscurity that comes from wearing grubby sunglasses in a poorly lit, dingy room! But I can honestly testify to enjoying what I tasted!
Oh why do we insist on going to Brighton when the Lord in his perfect love and wisdom has bid us stay where we are? We all know how Brighton ended up for Lydia. (If you don’t know – suffice it to say her trip to Brighton caused rather a lot of trouble! and also – please watch it!!!!!)
The peace of God is not broccoli, we don’t eat it to put hairs on our chest or to make our hair curly or to help us see in the dark.
What weird lies we tell about food!
Nor is it the junk food that we crave, the easy sweet stuff that slips down so easily and leaves us wanting more.
If only we could see our foolishness, indeed our arrogance. We are so confident in our gastronomical discernment that we clamp our mouths shut and turn our heads away from the spoon until we have more peace on our face and on the walls than in our souls.
How can we, we who have been given his Spirit, doubt that the peace of God is deeply satisfying, lasting, nourishing, pleasing and delightful?
Praise God that he is a good, good Father who patiently loves us and feeds us his perfect peace – spoon by painful spoon! Oh for the day when we will sit at his banqueting table and eat with complete trust and joy.
The One and Only did not think her exam went well. On the way home that evening my water bottle leaked until the contents of my bag were as soggy as a soggy brussel sprout! The next morning was grumpy and complicated as I piled the unimpressed children into the small car super early to get them all to school while the NTV gingerly drove the big car to the garage.
Was the peace of God therefore any less flavoursome, wholesome and wonderful? No.
The only limit we face when feasting on peace is our own determination to choose the meal. Our own foolish, presumptuous, proud, stubborn reticence to just open wide!
Dear Father God, thank you for your mercy and patience. Again and again I turn away from the peace you offer me. I would rather go hungry – worrying my way – than take the peace you offer. I treat your gourmet offerings with contempt! Please forgive me. Please help me to trust you and to learn to try what you put on my plate – the portion you give me. Help me to take a bite and be surprised. Please develop my tastes to crave your peace and please keep me in your perfect peace until that day when I can feast with you in glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*Anne Shirley is the main character in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s ‘Anne’ books – starting with ‘Anne of Green Gables’. The Jonah Day appears in book 2: Anne of Avonlea.