I grew up hating conflict until I got to college and found my voice. I blame my conflict avoidance as a kid on my status as an only child. I blame my conflict seeking in college to the school newspaper.
My junior year, I safely tucked my newfound voice into the pages of the OBU Bison. This new voice of mine was slapped on paper in black ink and spoiling for a fight. My senior year I was promoted to editor and able to choose my topics for editorials. My first editorial column was a doozy and it got me accolades from like-minded students and a stern lecture from my journalism instructor/newspaper advisor.
“Do you realize what you’ve done?” she asked me one day in the newspaper office. She had shut the door and leaned against it with her hands behind her back. Her cheeks were splotchy red, which was literally the only clue that she was angry. Her name was Kathy McKee and I still revere her after 25 years. Sadly, I had no idea what she was upset about. I had written an editorial about what I believed to be hypocrisy that was running rampant on our Christian college campus. Throughout my editorial, I took to task those who claimed to be Christlike but were shunning students who didn’t fit the Christian college mold. I had included scripture verses and pointed my cursor at students who were legalistic, pharisaical, morally superior, and judgmental (I included all these labels at various places within my scathing editorial).
“What have I done?” I asked my mentor innocently. We had spent many afternoons discussing exactly what I had written about in my editorial, and so I knew that she didn’t disagree with my conclusions. But she was a very wise woman who was often viewed as “different” because she did not share the denominational affiliation of our university. She, more than most, knew how important it was to be a peacemaker.
“You have thrown the first punch,” she said. “As an editorial writer, you never throw the first punch.”
Editorials, as it turns out, should be tied to an event, a concrete issue, a news piece. They should not be the writer’s opportunity to vent about things that make her gag. Even if those things are legitimate.
It was one of many lessons I learned (and continue to learn) about peace. It’s surprisingly easy to talk about peace. It’s another thing to live it out day in and day out. I’m continually shocked at how many times I throw the first punch.
Jesus, the Savior we wait for during these days of Advent, is the Prince of Peace. I’ve pondered that title at various times in my life: when I need peace from fear, when I want peace from the rumors and realities of war, when I crave peace in the midst of a far too hectic lifestyle, when I wish I could be a more peaceful person. I often wonder what we are missing in our violence-filled world. And still, I am saddened that often, those of us who claim to be Christlike can be the people who don’t look much like they are following the Prince of Peace. I suppose this is what I was getting at in my editorial, but unfortunately I was the hypocrite who threw the first punch.
When the snow fell last winter just a few days after Christmas, I stood outside and listened to the silence. There were no cars on my street or on the busy thoroughfares that surround my neighborhood. It was eerie, but absolutely beautiful. “Peace. Be still,” I could almost hear God say. The snowy silence was a reminder that our world will one day be free from all the edgy noise, the sorrow, the battles, and the fears. The move toward that day began in a stable with the birth cries of a tiny baby. I’m a bit of a hand-wringer and a control freak, which is a deadly combination for someone who longs for peace. But during these days of Advent, as we wait, I am reminded that the baby in the manger really did come to bring peace – into the world and into my heart.