Monday, December 18, 2017

Peace within Conflict

An Advent Reflection from Jodi Garbison

I shy away from writing opportunities even if I think I might have something to offer. I’m not sure why.

“I have lots of experience to draw from,” I tell myself. I’ve lived in community for 14 years. What could provide more opportunity to work through conflict than living and sharing all things in common with 10 other people? We have offered hospitality to homeless friends for 14 years. What could provide more opportunity to work through conflict than walking with people who have many unmet needs?

While these experiences over the years have certainly informed how I work through conflict, this Advent scripture passage offers a different perspective.

Romans 12:12-14: Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. Bless people who harass you – bless and don’t curse them.

Because of situations beyond my control, this has been one of the darker seasons of my life. Peace has felt elusive and fleeting. Peace has felt groundless and unsure. Seeking peace has felt much like trying to grasp disappearing vapor or the discouraging, fruitless efforts to remember the details of a recent dream. As I reflected on this scripture, I realized that the focus is less about where I experience conflict and more about where (and when) I experience peace. I read this passage differently this

When we gather each morning for prayer, I experience peace. I experience the joy that comes in journeying with community members who pray together. Community that believes in the power of being still before God in prayer gives peace that has strong footing.

When we open our doors each day, I experience the presence and welcome of those—some strangers, some friends—who come to Cherith Brook for clothing, showers, and food. I experience the peace of God in contributing to the needs of God’s people. I am able to be happy in my hope, stand my ground in trouble, and remember that I am not alone.

In these rhythms of prayer and engaged hospitality, rather than feeling unmoored, I am grounded and held strong. This is where (and when) I experience peace in times of uncertainty, times of conflict. To combat the darkness, peace comes through offering and receiving welcome. It comes when we remember our interconnectedness. Peace comes from being happy in our hope to encounter Christ who comes in the guise of our guests. We live each day, all year, in the season of Advent—anticipating the Coming of Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Creating God, break open our hearts, so that we may be ready to welcome you, the Prince of Peace.