By Amanda Cleary Eastep
“You have that look.”
My eighteen-year-old daughter says this as we hold each other in an embrace that sighs, “Don’t leave home,” and responds, “I have to go.”
Over the past weeks, she has taken to glancing sideways at me when we hug to make sure I’m not crying.
I am on the inside. Wailing like a mad woman.
And yet, since the beginning of her plans to graduate high school early and travel overseas as a young missionary, peace has laid over my heart like an unseen hand, the cool one my mother put on my forehead when I was a child and had a fever.
That doesn’t mean I don’t wake up at 2 a.m. to cry or to add to her to-do list — buy passport holder, make dentist appointment, check weather in Whatsitcalledagainistan — or to pray for real live angels to take over the duties of helicopter parents.
But does that look I get on my face not look like Peace to her?
Photo by Chris Sardegna
It is the season of Advent as we anticipate Christmas and hard goodbyes. During Advent, the second candle we light represents Peace.
On Saturday night at our house church, the flickering purple votive lit our way to the communion table.
It was a squatty little beacon standing tall.
In fact, God’s Peace stands unwavering, too, up to its knees in muck if it has to, like a war chaplain with a Bible whose pages between Psalm 91 and 92 are stuck together with dried blood.
I know we have our ideas of how Peace looks. (On occasion, mine happens to look like a good book and cup of tea.)
For some, the idyllic pasture scene bathed in light or the quiet of a snowy evening.
Maybe even the hand stayed from the bruised cheek or the uneasy cease fire.
Peace puts up with our definitions and shakes a head at our fortifications of barbed wire and 401Ks, knowing that eventually we will realize that even during the calmest, most lovely sunset moment, our hearts may still roil with agony…
…that quiet is not the same as peace.
Because it is in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty that Peace really has it’s chance to — what the Bible calls — “passeth all understanding.”
I know it passes my understanding. I questioned supporting my youngest’s decision to “go out into the world” in light of her physical challenges…and despite the cosmic assurance–the neon finger that has been pointing out the direction of her path since childhood.
Even as I embrace Peace, I glance sideways at it to see if it’s on the verge of weeping, too, or beginning to doubt, or God forbid, rolling its eyes and giving up on us.
But, no, in the middle of the scariest, most uncertain times, Peace still stands there with that look. Not haughty or clueless or with its eyes shut stubbornly to the dangers or hurts, but confident in the ultimate purpose of our stories, our adventures.
That is what Advent is supposed to be. The Adventure that offers to lead us to the intersection of the birth, death, and resurrection of the Prince of Peace.
Peace looks like the trembling sheep herder beneath the starry night.
Peace looks like the nails gouging the darkest day, the thickest pain, the most unbelievable of hopes.
Peace looks like the quiet conqueror.
My daughter will soon be out of my arms and into a dark world, clutching an unwavering light and her inhaler.
The next time we hold each other, I hope when she glances sideways at me, that look she sees on my face will still look like Peace…
…confident and with eyes fixed on what lay ahead for good.
This post first appeared on Amanda Cleary Eastep’s blog Living Behind the Lines. My daughter is a few years older now and still has one foot forever set in the direction God points.