I’m thrilled to introduce Jeannie Prinsen to the Words That Changed my World series of guest posts. Jeannie’s gentleness, thoughtfulness and sense of humor permeate all her interactions online, and I am so thankful she sent this post our way. Her words are particularly poignant in the wake of last week’s shooting at Seattle Pacific University, and the tragedies at TWO schools this week. Thanks, Jeannie.
I have a friend I’ve been walking with every Tuesday morning for the past several months, and our conversations about books, family life, friendship, and God are always inspiring and life-giving. A couple of weeks ago she was talking about the financial and logistical stresses of an impending house sale and move: “And the older I get, the less I like change. Even my fitness centre — they just renovated it and it’s beautiful, but it’s DIFFERENT. Change is hard.”
And then she said, “That’s when I need to ask myself, ‘Where is my peace?’ ”
We talked about that some more as we walked: the importance of determining where our peace lies, both in situations where we’ve made a choice that involves stress and anxiety, and in circumstances where we have no control whatsoever.
I thought about her words again one morning this week. I was about to go grocery shopping, but I decided to check Twitter first and was immediately riveted by the updates I was seeing. Allison’s school was currently in “hold and secure” (i.e. lockdown) mode because of some real or potential threat. “Police are everywhere.” “Students are being evacuated room by room.” “Supposedly a bomb threat.”
For the next two hours Richard and I remained glued to the computer as new information came out. The middle-school students in the upper level of the school were being taken to the education centre across the street; the high-schoolers were being taken to the YMCA nearby. Should we go to the school, we wondered? Or would that just add to the confusion? Were we supposed to pick up our children? Or would they be walking back to school if the all-clear was given? The updates continued: “Police are on scene and investigating. Evacuation and hold-and-secure a precautionary measure while police investigate.” Then, finally, “Given police investigation may extend past end of school day, we are initiating pick up of students – all safe.”
So I walked the few blocks to the YMCA and was directed to an upstairs gym. Students, parents, and teachers were milling about everywhere, but of course my eyes were seeking one person. To my relief, there was Allison sitting quietly against a wall. We headed downstairs to where two teachers, armed with giant binders, were methodically checking out every departing student by writing down who was picking them up and when. Then we walked out into the sunshine, safe and free.
Later we discovered that a student at the high school had made a written bomb threat and was now in the hands of police. No one was hurt, and the threat appeared to be a hoax. But it might not have been. Only the most naïve among us could think that our high school, our kids, have a bubble of safety around them and could never be victims of the kinds of horrible events we’ve seen over the years.
So my friend’s words come back to me: “Where is my peace?” Do I create peace for myself by never making a risky decision or by avoiding change? Do I place my peace in the hands of police or school administrators, assuming they can protect me and my family from all possible harm? Do I retreat into a fake peace that denies reality, saying, “That kind of thing happens to other people — not to us”? Or do I find my peace in God and in the assurance that no matter what happens, no matter what decisions I make or what situations occur that are beyond my control, God is faithful and will be with me?
I hope it’s the latter, but I know that sometimes my actions and thoughts suggest otherwise. I’m a worrier by nature, and I tend to want to do something, anything, that makes me feel in-control and alleviates the helplessness. Giving up the illusion that I can control my world is scary, yet I know it’s essential to real faith.
So I’m glad my friend asked this rhetorical question “Where is my peace?” — and I hope that it becomes less and less rhetorical and more and more a question I can answer with confidence: not confidence in myself, but in God, who has the whole world in His hands.
Jeannie Prinsen is an online writing instructor, a wife, and a mom to two kids aged 15 and 11. She blogs about faith, family, special needs, books, and whatever else interests her, at “little house on the circle“. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter: @JeanniePrinsen.