The other day I had the sort of day where everything goes wrong. It was a depressing day full of illness and poor communication and disappointments and plans falling through. Full of tension and doubt and anxiety and self pity.
The surprising thing was that at the end of this very long day, when I finally slithered down under the duvet and reached for the lamp to put out the bedside light, the word in my head was 'Peace'.
That was your doing.
Who else? The Prince of Peace.
I can't explain it; there wasn't a formula for why the day ended on an unexpected positive. All I can say is thank you.
I had choices to make that day and I agonised about them and I tried to do what you would want me to do rather than take the line of least resistance as I so often do. It didn't turn out well but I wonder if you blessed me for trying. I wasn't feeling well and didn't have anything left in reserve for a night spent ill-at-ease with my husband, with myself, with you - so perhaps you took pity on me and touched me with peace. The following day, as it turned out, was a pretty poorly day as well so maybe you were preparing me with a good night's sleep.
I don't know. All I know is that sometimes, out of the blue, I feel you so close that I could touch you and simply the fragrance of you is enough to fill me with peace.
I mean, I really went to sleep with the word, 'Peace' on my mind. It made me smile. I didn't spend an age getting to sleep as I usually do and I slept well. Bryan and I both woke in the night at one point and agreed that we both were feeling a bit better. The children didn't shout until morning. It was indeed a peace that passes understanding.
I'd been reflecting, as I sat with a coffee at bedtime, that lately I have been focusing too much on everything that I do wrong, everything that I mess up, all the stuff that I wish were different and spend so much time dwelling on. It struck me that you died to free me from all this stuff; you didn't do all that you did for me to spend my life picking over the debris, downcast and discouraged. You died to make me free.
To forgive me all the rubbish. All that I have done, that I do, and that I will do. You died for the sins I haven't even committed yet. You did it once, and for all. You took care of it. Yes, I get things wrong. Yes, I often choose the wrong thing. Yes, I fail in many and varied ways. I am selfish and critical and unloving and I worry and get angry and I interrupt - but I am forgiven. It doesn't mean that I don't need to make changes in my life and I know that sometimes it doesn't hurt to become aware of the scale of my need for forgiveness, but I need to remember that it is finished, as well.
There's no point in sitting down by the side of the pile of rubbish and wrongs and broken things and examining it from every angle day in, day out, absorbed in the landfill, never looking up.
If the pass mark for an exam is 100%, and I get 25%, I fail just the same way that I would fail with 99% or nothing at all. It doesn't matter. Since you are holiness itself and you cannot allow anyone less than holy into your presence, then Heaven would have been a pretty lonely place without Jesus, who came to make us holy. Because of him I am clean and shiny and new. I am able to come to you because of him. It is a done deal.
For me it's desperately discouraging that it takes me so long to learn a lesson and change the way I think and speak and act, but my striving is a response to you, not an attempt to earn my ticket to the party. I won't become any more righteous, any more deserving, the longer I live, or the harder I try, or the more I beat myself up about failing. There aren't even degrees of righteousness - I either am or I'm not, and there is only One who is - that's you.
And you loved me enough to forgive me. So that I could be with you. At immense cost to yourself, you made me whole. Made me new.
The peace came to me because I realised that you love me. Now. Even the way I am. I need to stop poking the wounds with a stick and let them heal. There will, no doubt, be plenty more. I need to get up and dust myself down again and carry on walking, and I'll need to do this today and again tomorrow and again the next day but you have said that you will never leave me or forsake me and you will always offer me your hand when I stumble and need help back to my feet.
I need to leave the pile of trouble and rubbish at the foot of the cross, with all the others, and walk away. You tell me that I don't need to carry it all about with me.
I am forgiven. I am loved. You made me free and yet I keep carrying this weight around with me instead of leaving it behind and walking with a lighter step. You don't want me to drag it round with me.
Peace. The peace of knowing that it won't always be a struggle. It won't always be confusing and unsettling. The fight won't last forever.
The peace of knowing that the one who truly knows me, good and bad, inside and out, the past and the future, you love me right now, today, despite everything.
'...and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'