By Amanda Cleary Eastep
“You have that look.“
My daughter says this as we hold each other in an embrace that sighs, “Don’t leave home,” and responds, “I have to go.”
She’s 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.
Still, 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 Uzbekistan — 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
In this season of Advent, the second candle we light as we anticipate Christmas represents Peace.
The flickering purple votive glowing amidst all the dark stuff we brought to church with us on Saturday night lit our way to the communion table.
It was a squatty little beacon standing tall.
In fact, Peace stands unwavering, 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 glass of cabernet.)
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’ve questioned supporting her decision to “go out into the world” in light of her physical challenges and despite the cosmic assurance, the neon fingers that have been pointing out the direction of her path for years. 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.
Photo by Drew Geraets
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.
But the next time we hold each other, I hope that when she glances sideways at me, that look she sees on my face will actually look like Peace.
Confident and with eyes fixed on what lay ahead for good.