These days I keep coming back to the word “shalom.” I heard it used as a kind greeting as a kid, and then I didn’t hear it for a while as if it were taken away by waves in an ocean. And then it tumbled back into my heart a few years ago… shalom.
Shalom is a Hebrew word, meaning “peace.” Matt Pogue, at Timber Wolf Lake, describes it as “nothing broken, nothing missing.” Shalom has many undulations and nuances: restoration, rest, blessing, completeness, blessing, wholeness, harmony with our Lord, tranquility, grace, prosperity.
Numbers 6:24-26 says, “May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” This is also known as the Aaronic benediction because God instructed Moses to pass this blessing to Aaron and his sons in order to bless the Israelites. It was a blessing to be passed along from person to person; in Hebrew, the word peace means shalom.
The beauty of this word is that shalom can only be found in Christ. He is shalom; He is our wholeness, our grace, our blessing, our restoration, and our rest.
As I came back from assignment a few weeks ago, I could not get this word out of my mind. The Lord kept whispering it in my heart. It reminds me of who I truly am created to be: a person of peace, of restoration, of blessing, of grace… all in Him.
Shauna Niequist talks about shalom in her book, Cold Tangerines. She’s very real about how, ironically, she has to fight for shalom in her life, and I can relate.
The texts are constantly coming in, emails in my inbox, errands to run, appointments to make, television blaring in the background, a house to clean, laundry to fold, things to prepare for and follow-up on.
It can be exhausting.
And then I remember, “shalom.” Peace cannot be present unless He is present. So, I whisper the word to myself…shalom. It’s like a one-word prayer saying so much: Lord, don’t let me do anything without You. Lord, let me only rely on You. Lord, help me to turn off the noise and attune my heart to You. Lord, let my life not turn into a constant to do list. Lord, forgive me. Lord, restore me. Lord, you are here; help me to see you.
I’ve found that in order to hear the Lord’s sweet whispers of peace, I have to create space and quiet. I have to fight for the margin to read His bullet points in the dialogue of my life. It reminds me of a note taking strategy teachers often show kids called “Cornell Notes.” On the right side of the paper, you write the details of whatever you’re studying, and then on the left, you write the important points that stand out. At the bottom of the paper, you summarize what you’ve learned. The purpose of Cornell Notes is to see the relationship between the details and the big ideas and then to reflect. How often do I get caught up on the right side of the paper and forget about the left? What little time do I devote to the reflective summary of what the Lord is doing in those details?
I’m also fighting for shalom. I’m fighting the battle of my heart to do, do, do. I’m making myself stop to create some bullet points along the way and reflect on His great hand in my life. This means that I don’t always answer texts right away, I’m giving myself permission to answer emails within a 24 hour period, and I’m intentionally spending time with the Lord and my family. I am aware that I struggle with anxiety and the need to please and perform for people, so when I feel that enemy creep up on my shoulder, I stop and pray. I whisper shalom.
I am increasingly becoming aware that I cannot live a life of joy without Him, and how I have lived in mindsets that relied on myself and my own achievement rather than on Him. Relying more on Him is making me more grateful for the texts, emails, to do lists, laundry, etc… These are all blessings and a joy, but not without Him.
We are living in a world of achieve and succeed, and I want to fight for the space to create, to ask, to listen, to laugh, to cry, and to feel all that is He has placed before me. To live a life of abundance is not about the things around us, but the experiences He gives us to known Him more. It’s really beautiful if you think about it.
Last winter, I asked Jesse if he wanted to pray with on the way to school. He said sure, and lo and behold the Aaronic blessing came flowing out of his mouth. Now, I know that he learned this at school or Bible Study, but it was the sweetest gift I could have been given. My four-year old son was passing along the Lord’s shalom to me. Shalom isn’t meant to bottle up and store in the cabinets of your heart, but it is meant to be shared and experienced together in community like a wonderful party.
And so I pass this on to you today:
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.