Shalom: Peace In The Time of Covid-19
When we experience shalom in our hearts there are no chipped or missing pieces. We are healed and whole in a way that we can be through nothing else.
I love words. All writers do. I love to write, read, speak and use words the same way that artists like to look at and spread color in meaningful ways or musicians love to listen and pour melodies into the universe. Words are like arrows in that once they have been spoken, the spirit of the speaker goes out to the world around, and can not be retrieved.
Just as God breathed into the void and created the heavens and the earth by speaking, our spirits go out as breath with sound in the form of words. We create or we destroy, lift up or tear down, encourage or dismiss, affirm or negate, all with through the power of our words.
Some words seem to be just words: toaster, cat, plate, tree. They give us a way to reference the world and navigate the things we can see and touch. Other words evoke a meaning so deep and rich that our minds can play with them and roll them over like a cat does a ball of yarn. Words like advent, birth, calm, home, liturgy, memorable, love, warmth, kitchen. These are words that make me feel safe. Included. Wanted.
Of all the wonderful words I know, there is one word that I have such a love for and a connection to that I have had it written on several walls in our home. It is never far from my lips and never out of my mind. During the most recent Lenten season, I had a temporary tattoo with this word in Hebrewon the inside of my right wrist. It is an ancient word, appearing many times in the Hebrew Bible. This word is thousands of years old and has its origin in some of the earliest written languages. The word is Shalom, and it is a word that touches my heart like no other. I know that sounds weird, but hang in there with me. I can explain.
In my role as a Christian Educator I often ask groups of young people what they understand about the meaning of the word Shalom. I get a lot of great answers. I also get a lot of blank stares. Many of them assert that Shalom means peace or that it is used to say hello and goodbye. I affirm their responses and then begin to explain that the word shalom is so rich and full of meaning, that our English word "peace" barely scratches the surface.
The word shalom, in the easiest and more accurate direct translation means wholeness or completion. Diving a bit deeper, the connotation is that shalom represents the wholeness and completion that is only available from God. Shalom is the complete healing of heart and soul that God gives when we invite His Holy Spirit in and allow it to live with us. When we experience shalom in our hearts there are no chipped or missing pieces. We are healed and whole in a way that we can be through nothing else. Shalom is also used to express health, safety, well being and more.
The name Jerusalem is rooted in the word shalom so that Jerusalem can be translated "the city of peace". Many Hebrew expressions include this word including one that roughly means"all things will be settled in the end" loosely compared to our "all's well that ends well" and other optimistic sayings. Shalom Aleichem "peace be upon you", is another greeting. "Alav hashalom" is a phrase of respect for one who has died. We might say "may they rest in peace".
My personal favorite is "shalom bayit" meaning a harmonious home. Another favorite is "shabbat shalom" which is a greeting heard all over Jerusalem each Friday as the people wish each other a joyous sabbath. In the Jewish tradition it is said that there are three things required for a civilized society and they are law, (din) truth, (emet) and shalom. Personally, I would add solid education to the list, but I don't know the Hebrew word for it, and I would never dream of ruining an ancient sacred saying by adding my inconsequential thoughts to it.
Having this word on many walls of our home has given me opportunities to tell many young visitors about the depth of love, peace and wholeness that God offers His children through the gift of His Son Jesus. These displays are an example of inciting curiosity to encourage faith conversations. When young people see an unfamiliar word on the wall in several rooms (including the guest bath) most of them finally ask me about it. What a great way to explain about the indescribable love of God. If you haven't read my blog post about this method of sharing faith the link is at the bottom of this post.
As we come to the end of Advent season and draw very close to the day of the Christ child please accept from my humble heart the most sincere wish for you to have shalom for the season and into the new year. Truly, it is the best and most pure hope that I can offer and I offer it with deep gratitude for you who have read my writing and sent me gracious responses. May shalom surround you this Christmas.