I have become a little obsessed with the verse from Isaiah 11 we posted Monday. If you have time, go back and read it through a few times. It is such a compelling vision for the kind of peace God envisions for the world.
What strikes me most is the description of animals. Isaiah paints this picture of animals who normally would attack and kill each other lying down side by side.
This is Shalom. When the peace of God takes hold, all of creation is affected. It is not just a people without conflict, it is every fiber of the created world in harmony with one another. Every time I read it, I am brought to tears.
Especially this verse:
The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
But without any need for concern of them being harmed.
It’s a stunning image. And it is the peace God yearns to return to his world.
I am currently reading Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. There was a moment in the book where someone asked the main character (Chase) if he wanted to be a prophet. Without giving Chase a chance to respond, this wise woman tells him he will never be able to bring peace to the world unless he finds peace in himself.
She understood this peace Isaiah talks about to be something we are supposed to be bringing here and now. She also understood it to be a kind of peace we experience within ourselves.
This repainted the whole scene for me, because I know I have those things inside of me. I carry within me the innocence of a child. The wonder, the awe, the desire for a parent….What some might call purity of heart…. Good intentions, joy, the ability to let things roll of my back, the desire to be held, the pure quest for God and the kind of life he offers. I know those parts well.
But the snakes are there too.
There are the slimy, black, slithering parts of my soul which I would rather most people not see. The places that are coiled and just waiting for an excuse to be let loose and spread their venom.
I carry within me both the snake and the child.
And in Isaiah’s vision of peace, these two are supposed to lay down side by side.
Now, I would rather him get rid of the snakes all together. But he doesn’t. The snakes don’t disappear, they have been redeemed. What once was a cause for worry and fear now becomes a source of beauty. I think this is true for inner peace as well.
We all carry these things within us. Inner peace means both the child and the snakes within co-exist. I need to learn to accept both. I acknowledge the fact that both are present. Perhaps the first step to “Peace on Earth” is peace within ourselves. And perhaps the acceptance of our snakes is the first step to being at peace with ourselves.
So often we want to ignore and stuff down the more disgusting parts of ourselves. But that doesn’t keep them from being there. Acknowledging my inner snakes doesn’t get rid of them, it redeems them. I no longer have to pretend or hide or control. I can be honest about the snakes in my life. And when I do, I open myself up to God to redeem them.
So this week as you contemplate Jesus bringing Shalom, explore the places within yourself that cry our for Shalom and redemption. Because only when we bring them into the light, can the light do its work.
May the Lord give us peace.