Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Shalom, Peace, Enjoy!

When did you last turn sideways and crab hop along a pedestrian crossing? 
Me neither. 
I smiled today when I noticed a young girl doing just that on her way to school. She personified joie de vivre. Her lighthearted dance reminded me of a paragraph quoted in an exquisite art and faith book titled, Dwelling With Philippians.

The author mentions enjoyment as inherent to "peace", or as the greeters at my daughter’s synagogue wish us, “Shalom”.

The peace which is shalom is not merely the absence of hostility, not merely being in right relationship. Shalom at its highest is enjoyment in one’s relationships. A nation may be at peace with all its neighbours and yet be miserable in its poverty. To dwell in shalom is to enjoy living before God, to enjoy living in one’s physical surroundings, to enjoy living with one’s fellows, to enjoy life with oneself. 
(Nicholas Wolterstorff)

Lately I’ve heard more non-Jewish use of the Hebrew word, ‘shalom”. The English word, “peace,” has felt a little shopworn ever since it started being used as a casual greeting by ‘60’s hippies. Especially on Remembrance Day, we identify with the Christmas carol's lament: 
“There is no peace on earth…for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.” 
To Hebrew speakers, the word, “shalom” may sound equally hollow, but I was inspired by Wolterstorff’s suggestion of a deeper meaning, that the peace offered by God includes the full enjoyment of life’s rich relationships. 

Enjoyment offered by God - what a concept! The Hebrew scriptures and the gospel of Jesus tell us to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbours, yes, even our neighbouring enemies. That can sound more like Herculean labour than enjoyment. 

Recently I went through a bout of trying harder to be a good girl. There’s no quicker way to take the fun out of life. I needed reminding that when the Great Mystery brought all of creation to life S/He said, “It is good.” Jesus said, “I’ve come so that you can have abundant life.” Early Christ-followers wrote that when we trust God, we can experience a surprising inner peace that affects every relationship.

Gazing at a friend’s newborn baby, watching a schoolgirl skip across the road, hearing words of mercy after failure, counting on the One for whom nothing’s impossible: this is shalom. 
(now there’s a shopworn cliché...)