In Pursuit of Peace

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Over the last few years, I have reread Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s biography by Eric Metaxas several times, captivated by Bonhoeffer’s relentless hope in the most perilous of times. He was a well-known German pastor, theologian, and vocal opponent to the Nazi dictatorship in WWII, eventually executed by the Nazis for his outspoken faith and political activism, when he was only 39. Over a decade earlier, he had come to the United States for seminary and could have stayed here where he would have been safe and secure, but he believed that God needed him, and the people of Germany needed him to fight this war of evil, not run from it. He decided to go back knowing that he would be targeted by the Nazi regime. He chose to go back to the hornet’s nest.

There is a paragraph in his biography that spoke to me about his bravery.

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.[1]

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For years I had chosen security, the majority of my life, actually. I was terrified of flying, so I found myself hiding from opportunities that would be further than a car ride away. As Restore has grown, I have worked to fight through my anxieties, surrendering as best I could to endure a flight to Central America or the occasional trip to Europe. As I have gotten older, though, the trips are longer, the physical effects make me weary, my nervous anticipation increases, and I often feel dread when an opportunity arises.

Earlier this year I had a choice to go to Africa with Restore, a place I have never been, spending nearly 24 hours traveling to arrive in a remote village to spend a week with 20 people whom I have never met. I did not have to go. The secure thing would be to just stay here, in Tennessee, avoiding all of the unpleasant feelings that I knew would accompany my travels.

Traveling wasn’t the way to safety, it wasn’t a place of security. It was going to be extremely difficult, scary, and uncomfortable. I would have no security or control. My only source of bravery came from the overwhelming peace that I knew I was supposed to go, because God had called me. It was apparent that God had opened a door and He was saying that He wanted me to go to Africa.

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As Bonhoeffer said, God promises peace is possible, but only with great courage.

I have grown immensely from my trip to Africa. It has called me into a deeper call to living in the peace of faith so that I will follow His lead and His guiding into my destiny.

 

[1] Metaxas, Eric. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Page 241

Why I run from what I long for…

 

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Recently, I have been stuck in a pattern that I dislike: longing for intimacy, but being terrified of vulnerability. For me, there are two types of vulnerability: one type I bring into a small group; the second I bring to one-on-one relationship. In close personal relationship I am far more guarded. I am comfortable in group, but in one on one relationships, I retreat because the risk is so much greater. Vulnerability with those I’m closest with requires honesty and truth about what I am longing for and what my weaknesses are; it is here that I am most afraid. In truth, I am fully aware that you can use my vulnerability against me and choose to reject me.

Rejection would really hurt so I remain guarded, distant, disconnected, no intimacy in close relationships, and I remain lonely.

What I have come to realize is that I fiercely cling to what I know. Even though I may be suffering by clinging to dysfunction, I don’t do anything to change it. Instead, I continue to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. I fear confronting a reality that I find unacceptable. But I accept it fearing that I will just make it worse if I try to change it.

This pattern becomes dangerous because I isolate and withdraw, then use some type of escape to fill the void, perpetuating resentment and self-pity. This pattern continues repeating with some small periods of relief like vacations or trips–but at the heart of it is loneliness. I stop trying to connect.

Brené Brown says, “Those who are vulnerable and risk pain and suffering from vulnerability live whole-heartedly; imperfect and wired for struggle, but worthy of love and belonging.”[1]

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What I am learning in this struggle is people deserve to know the truth. Yes, there is risk and potential suffering from sharing the truth, but it is the only path to being truly known. Isolation is the fertile soil of making bad choices to alleviate the pain. I can choose to suffer in isolation and silence withholding my truth from people, knowing that it will never bear fruit other than loneliness, or I can choose to suffer in the power of being known.

The very thing I run from is the very thing I long for.

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The only way I am going to grow and enter into the sacred place of intimacy is to risk truth in vulnerability. So I have decided that I am not going to suffer in isolation anymore, because vulnerability is the only path that leads to connection with others and ultimately myself.

 

[1] Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead