Recently, I have had the privilege of walking a while with an old soldier, who has fallen in love with our Peace Testimony. I don’t know exactly how much blood is on his hands, and I’m not sure I want to find out. But he loves the Peace Testimony with a passion and a faithfulness that is only possible from creatures who know that they have been terribly lost, and are found at last. To him, the Peace Testimony is more than a witness against war. She is Shalom. Wholeness, reconciliation, healing, love, caring, life, joy, abundance.
He sees in her the shining face of God’s abiding, overarching, impossible, mad love for us and for the world. He sees in the Peace Testimony an affirmation of life, an affirmation of God’s love for all of us. He sees in her the hope of living beyond despair, of living in “the covenant of peace which was before wars and strife were.” (Fox) And he has determined never to leave her.
So I paid attention when, one day during our walk, he said to me with some anguish, “She’s broken. She’s hurt.”
He stretched out his hand, and nestled in it was a bright thing with feathers, iridescent and brilliant and bejeweled. Her eyes were bright. When I touched her, I could feel the strong beat of her heart, measuredpatientwildgreen. She’s a beautiful thing, Peace is. She looks so delicate, but she is strong. As I looked closer at her, I saw what the old soldier was trying to say: her wings were crumpled, stuck and sticky, coated in the crippling adhesive of the compromises of the Spirit of the World. How long had it been since she’d really flown and soared? She is so beautiful, it is easy not to notice how broken she is. She was singing a song beyond words, of wholeness and joy and love and reconciliation. But how long had it been since she’d been able to soar?
The old soldier looked at me, and I could see it in his eyes: What can be done? Oh, Lord. How could I tell this man that That was the best we Quakers could do… that there was nothing to be done to help her soar, that our Peace Testimony was forever doomed to compromise and failure? With the song of Peace ringing through my brain, how could I tell this lost-and-found child of God that there was nothing to be done to help her, and that he would have to settle for good enough?
Well, I couldn’t tell him.
Shalom speaks against war and violence, and for generosity and gentleness. Shalom speaks against abortion, and for life for the powerless. Shalom speaks against euthanasia, and for care for the helpless and despairing. Shalom speaks against the death penalty and for mercy.
Shalom speaks against expedience and “logic” and “pragmatism.”
Shalom speaks against anger and hatred and fear and despair.
Shalom speaks against Death.
Let justice and mercy kiss.
Choose life, o child of God.
Choose life in all your paths.
Love one another.
Love thy neighbor.
Love thy enemy.
Love the poor and the lame and the sick.
Love the little ones and the littlest ones—even those yet unseen.
And still my old soldier looks at me with grave eyes (O found prodigal, brother mine—I have nothing, no answers, less than a dying thief).
All I have is a prayer:
Lord, open the eyes of our hearts. Heal the brokenness in each of us that makes it hard to follow your path. Help us to live fully in the covenant of peace that was before and is beyond strife. Make us true citizens of your Peaceable Kingdom, true witnesses to Shalom. Make our Testimony to the world Whole and True so that we love and cherish ALL of your children, including those unborn. Help us to choose against Death and the Reasoner, and the entangling snares of the World. O Lord, grant us thy peace. Amen.
The Spirit of Shalom has beautiful wings. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for the whole world to be able to look up into the blue blue sky and see her shining, and glorious and whole… and hear her song roll down like waters…
Wilt thou pray with me?