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Finding Peace in the Confusion: Advent Reflections

December 10, 2018 by

drawing of the wise men worshiping the baby Jesus
artwork by Evelyn Vanderhoof

This past month has been confusing for me: people talk about the caravan of thousands of poverty-stricken Central Americans fleeing the world’s murder capital as if it is an invading army. Every day brings more bad news about what we as humans are doing to this planet, and the elections gave us choices that were not choices. Although we have an infrastructure of transportation and communication like never before, huge pockets of need fester everywhere.

As the saying goes, the solution might be simple, but not easy.

I remember when, at the age of twenty-nine, I was in a state of confusion. I had many decisions to make. What will I commit my life to? What basis will my marriage be on? What should I do about guilty feelings from a fairly dreadful past? How does one live by the spirit of love instead of pride and fear? What can I do about the threat of nuclear war and the people starving in Africa? How about simplicity of lifestyle – was I living too comfortably ?

And my lack of a sense of purpose? My response to authority? How do I reach out to everyone with genuine love, without kowtowing to pastors, bosses, and other authority figures? Shouldn’t I be feeling much more joy? What about death and my fear of old age? What about the Great Commission to reach everyone everywhere with the gospel – why wasn’t I doing it? What is real freedom and what is irresponsibility? Can I start a new life as if nothing has happened?

And so on.

I finally asked a pastor (one of the few I trusted) what to do about all this confusion. His response was notable and, in the long run, incredibly helpful.

“Don’t dwell on the confusion,” he said. In other words, step back from that confusion, step clear of it, let it fall to the ground.

We try to process everything with our minds – compare, contrast, and analyze, and drive ourselves crazy. And in doing so, we entirely miss a chance to face our challenges with faith, hope, love, and joy.

You cannot fight for justice, for the environment, for peace, without peace in your heart and the joy that naturally accompanies it.

Prayer is the missing link. Prayer helps us with our choices, and we soon realize that everyone has challenges to face and decisions to make. And remember, divine help often comes through our fellow travelers on earth. Find a counselor you can trust, and don’t forget that even a chance encounter – someone you meet on a train or in the checkout line – might help you through a very difficult time.

To step back from the confusion is freedom, and you don’t have to wait for a politician to change this or that law for this kind of freedom. It can happen right now.

Today the issues are slightly different: gun control, mass shootings, the opioid crisis, the war and famine in Yemen, earth’s changing climate. But the advice holds true: step away from all the confusion and agitation into a place of peace. Christmas is coming, let the Babe in the manger be born in your heart.

Stepping away from the confusion does not mean denial. It gives us the strength to do the work that needs us. You cannot fight for justice, you cannot fight for the environment, you cannot fight for peace, without peace in your heart and the joy that naturally accompanies it.

Conrad Richter wrote that “Unhappy men are dangerous.” A good point. So let go of your perplexity and let joy flood in. Every question needs an answer and you will find it if you keep your heart open, but try to live one day at a time. Today is also a day to rejoice, it may be your last. Seize the day!

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About the author

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer is a free-thinking Anabaptist, would-be poet who lives at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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