I’ll never forget when I decided to quit chasing peace.
I’ll also never forget the horrifically painful loss that led me to that point.
It began in December 2016, when Crossroads was doing a series on finding peace around the holidays. I had two kids in diapers and was working full-time (so, yes, a message on peace was just what the doctor ordered).
In addition, because my husband and I are gluttons for punishment, we had a one-year-old labrador retriever / Great Pyrenees mix who was 100+ lbs and full of energy.
We also had an older labrador retriever, but he had the liveliness of a parking lot speed bump.
That season, I was trying to live in a constant balance of finding peace while being present with my kids. As many could understand, it never worked, and I was left feeling like a failure.
Even if everyone was asleep, the house was still a disaster, and I felt no peace.
I wanted the minimalist, kumbaya, quiet-yoga-studio-on-the-deserted-beach sort of peace.
Instead, I had…dog toys.
Pieces of toys that could have been either of those in a former life.
Moldy sippy cups of cottage cheese under the couch. Laundry, and then more laundry. Constant diaper changes. Cartoons blaring at the highest volume. And a house that smelled like it all.
And that was in my ‘free’ time away from work. Somewhere in there was a husband. Maybe he was buried in the laundry - I don’t know.
So when that sermon series on peace began, I was all in for whatever it could offer. I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve my ideal bliss (or even just one less load of laundry a week, whichever came first).
I even started changing my life outside the Sunday teachings to get ahead of the curve.
First, I started getting up at 5:00 every morning to read my Bible before anyone else in the house was awake. A healthy starting place, no?
Then, I started praying to find peace amidst the chaos. We were off to a great start.
I should have known it was a fleeting moment.
Soon after, the dogs caught onto this early wake-up routine. They wanted out, and they wanted food. If that were all, we would have been fine.
The big puppy kept dropping toys in my lap to start a rousing game of fetch (if you’re a dog owner, you’re aware of the sometimes-fun, sometimes-torture nature of these moments).
I was trying to get my monk-style prayer and Bible reading on, yet a slobbery tennis ball continued to be plopped on me. Barking proceeded when I didn’t throw it.
Naturally, this woke the kids up.
Everything was unraveling.
We had reached square one.
I was beside myself.
This was not peace. This was more of the same, but now at 5 AM instead of 6 AM. Weeks went on of this treacherous bout for peace.
Until one morning.
It was a day when I had let the dogs out, and they kept themselves occupied. I finally had a lovely, quiet morning before everyone else got going. It was beautiful.
A few hours later, my husband, kids, and I were doing our patented last-minute scramble to get out the door.
However, we realized the young dog never came back in. The old one did, but not the young one.
Then we saw flashing blue lights down the street.
Our hearts sank.
Our young dog chased a coyote through our fence and into traffic. He was hit and killed on the spot.
I’ve lost pets before, but this one was harrowing. It was sudden and unexpected. It was the first time we had to explain it to the kids. It also happened while I was being thankful my life was finally peaceful for a little bit.
That led to some severe guilt (which I still struggle with at times). In the weeks that followed, I would have traded peace for a slobbery tennis ball dropped in my lap in a heartbeat. I wanted to be angry about the dog sharing food with the kids more than I wanted peace. I wanted him trying to sit in my lap while I read a book more than I wanted peace.
I wanted messy, chaotic love. I wanted it more than I wanted peace.
Do you know who else traded in peace to get messy, chaotic love?
He left heaven (which I hear is quite peaceful) and came to earth as a newborn. Ever been in a delivery room? It is messy, chaotic, and not at all peaceful. It is also full of love.
Almost everything about human existence is messy and chaotic. We tend to do that. We make a mess of things and muck things up. And there’s some law of thermodynamics about entropy, which (in layman’s terms) basically says “everything goes to sh*t if we don’t work at it.” (Why hello, Isaac Newton. You just described my house).
Earth is messy and chaotic. People are messy and chaotic. Jesus loves us so much that He gave up his peaceful heavenly existence to be with the messy, chaotic people He loves.
I realized that I needed to do the same. I needed to stop my quest for peace.
I started seeking love.
People are messy - especially my people - and I decided I wanted their mess and love more than I wanted peace. And do you know what happened when I made that shift?
I found peace.
Did Mary Poppins come to my house and sing a song that made it clean itself and smell like William Sonoma?
I wish, but no.
It was still just as messy and smelly as ever. But shifting my focus made me stop caring quite so much. When I shifted my perspective and started pursuing love, the importance of those other things dropped a few rungs.
And when the importance of all the DVDs being put in the correct cases became less critical, I found peace.
How are things going now?
The kids are seven and nine. I’m sitting by the fireplace and watching a nice gentle snow outside. Sound peaceful? That’s not the whole story.
The TV is still blasting some cartoon I don’t recognize. I am on a couch covered in mismatched blankets, so I don’t have to look at all the stains on it. There are toys everywhere. I don’t want to turn around and look at the mess in the kitchen. The two dogs are playing tug-of-war in front of me. The kids are yelling at the dogs for blocking the TV. I just had to stop typing to peel an orange for my daughter. I asked her to throw the peels away, but I’ll probably find them somewhere random in a week or so.
I am surrounded by mess and chaos - but also by love. I gave up on peace and chased love.
That’s how I found peace.