On Wyoming and Experiencing Peace.
Somewhere along the line, we got this image that the best way to experience God was to do it alone. Whether through worship, through prayer, through devotions or through confession, most of us have spent the majority of our spiritual lives building walls that isolate us from others.
We grieve alone.
We sin alone.
We try to experience God alone.
But try as we might, we’re never quite able to experience peace alone.
I have made the drive from the Midwest to the West Coast twice.
The first trip was made as recently graduated college student, idealistic and feeling as though I was in complete control.
The second, as a recently hired pastor, anxiously packing and carrying the possessions of a wife and 18 month old little girl to a city I had spent a few hasty hours interviewing, late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, with a beautiful congregation.
The first trip, beginning one June morning, was done with two of my closest friends. We packed into an old Ford Taurus and started West on I-70. Our destination was a wedding in Northern California where we would celebrate another close friend’s wedding.
Along the way, we found ourselves caught in a rocky mountain snow storm, witnessed the brilliance of the stars in the Utah desert, the brilliant lights on the Los Vegas strip at night , and frigid wet of the Pacific followed by the warmth of a bowl of San Francisco Clam Chowder.
The second trip was made with my Father-in-law. Being winter, and not wanting anything to do with the Rockies in January, we decided to take the southern route; old Route-66.
Pushing west, an overloaded mini-van and a moving truck, together we witnessed the beauty of the Texas Basin, the oasis of Flagstaff in the midst of a sea of red clay, meteor crater in Arizona, and the beautiful rolling hills that run along “I-5” in California.
There was a distinct moment during each trip out West when I remember being awe-struck by the sheer beauty of what I was seeing, and then became overwhelmed with gratitude that I was able to share this experience with someone else.
We yearn for it, don’t we? Our efforts are dedicated to finding it; often finding that our searching is in vain. And so we keep searching for it through books, through music, through exercise, or through long drives at night.
After failing more times than we want to admit, we find ourselves believing maybe we haven’t pushed the right buttons, or maybe we lack enough self-discipline.
What if peace isn’t what we’ve been taught it is?
What if this counter-intuitive peace was so powerful and so beautiful because it has more to do with the collective whole rather than the individual?
What if peace was never intended to be found alone?
In a sermon about the Kingdom of God the peace it brings, Pastor Tim Keller talked about peace this way:
“God created the world to be a fabric, for everything to be woven together and interdependent… The more interdependent they are, the more beautiful they are. The more interwoven they are, the stronger and warmer they are. God made the world with billions of entities, but he didn’t make them to be an aggregation. Rather, he made them to be in a beautiful, harmonious, knitted, webbed, interdependent relationship with one another.”
It’s this communal experience of peace that prompted the angels to proclaim “Peace on earth.” The word used there was “Eirene.” It’s a word used to describe a collective peace; this is peace on a national scale.
Eirene shows us that Christ didn’t come to save you, and he didn’t come to save me. He came to save us.
When the church is acting in one-accord and when it’s threads are tightly woven together, there is a peace that is present in the midst of the people who goes beyond any explanation, and defies any logic.
Kingdom peace, in all its beauty, will never be found through escape; it can only be found through communion.
With the wedding a success, we began our trip back to the Midwest. I had the lonely responsibility of driving the grave yard shift from Salt Lake City to Denver Colorado. The road stretched for miles with no turn in sight, and we found that the only change for miles was a slow and steady rhythm of small hills that rose and fell like a small child peacefully breathing. Couple this with the soft hum of the tires and I quickly I found myself to be the only one awake.
It was dark.
Then came Wyoming.
The Sun began to creep up and cast the full range of reds, oranges and blues along the eastern sky directly in front of me. I was witnessing art in progress.
This moment was sacred, it was peaceful and I knew it was a gift.
Disappointed that I would be the only one to witness this sunrise, I hopefully glanced over at my friend, Chris who was sitting in the passenger seat, and saw that without my knowing he had woken up and was silently soaking in this moment with me. We witnessed the slow birth of beauty, and experienced a quiet peace.
That was 6 years ago, but Chris and I still talk about that sunset to this day.
Originally published in Standard, February 22, 2015 (WordAction Publishing Company: Kansas City, MO). All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.