Seeking Peace . . . Finding Boredom

This Christmas, I decided to simplify. I know, I know. It’s so common in Christian circles to hear about simplifying and focusing on peace during Christmas that it’s almost trite. But last year our Christmas season was so stressful, Bryan and I said “never again” on December 26th. This year we entered December with a different approach. For example . . .
 
We normally throw a huge holiday party. This year we are skipping it.
 
We often go on vacation the week before or after Christmas. This year we are staying home.
 
We usually wait until the last minute to finish Christmas shopping. This year we started in October.
 
We always go to the big Christmas tree lighting at church. This year we didn’t.
 
When I hear or read the message of simplicity at Christmas, I sort of picture that peace is just waiting for us at the bottom of our pile of stressful seasonal activities. After all, the notion of simplicity implies the absence of unnecessary things. So that should mean if we keep stripping things off our activity pile, we should find peace. Right?
 
Well, I got (mostly) to the bottom of the pile this year and found something unexpected. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but instead of peace I found boredom. Each night since we put our tree up I have sat in our living room staring at it, feeling like so much is missing this year. Not only are the activities gone, but so is a lot of the excitement. Christmas has never been “peaceful” for us with all the usual activities and events, but it certainly has been exciting . . . fun . . . and even joyous.
 
Is peace truly found in the simplification of our schedule, as is so often implied? I had to do some thinking on this after finding myself disappointed by the results.
 
The secular definition of peace is “the lack of violent conflict”. The Biblical definition is really not too different (Romans 5:1-2): “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand…” In other words, due to our sinfulness, we are by nature in “violent conflict” with God, but through Jesus we can be reconciled to God, resulting in peace.
 
Peace is about the PRESENCE of Jesus in our lives, representing reconciliation with God . . . not about the ABSENCE of anything.
 
Granted, when we fill our lives with too many things or activities, it becomes much more difficult to focus on Jesus’ presence. But a dutiful simplification of our schedules at Christmastime does not lead us by default to peace as one might imagine from years of December sermons. It just lands us at a place where we are more free to focus on the reconciliatory peace that was brought to the world through the baby born on (what we celebrate as) December 25th.
 
That’s something I should get excited about. That’s something I am getting excited about now that I’m free to do so. In fact, I’m already excited to simplify again next year now that I understand peace is about presence and not absence. Absence is boring. Peace is exciting.
 

Today’s Thought:

How have you defined peace – by absence or presence?
 

Today’s Action:

Meditate on Romans 5:1-2. Then pray that God will help you increase your understanding of Biblical peace this Christmas season. If your kids are old enough, use today’s thought as a conversation starter.
 

12 Comments

  1. David Crain on December 5, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    I remember our minister commenting on your theme some 40 years ago. He described three pictures side by side in a gallery. The first showed a spectacularly red sunset over Lahaina, the second, a doe and her fawn on a dew-kissed Yosemite Valley morning, while the third depicted a sleeping baby, swaddled in a basket, cradled on an extended bough over a torrent of a raging river. One picture was entitled “Peace”.



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on December 23, 2011 at 1:48 PM

      This is a great example – thank you for posting!



  2. Floralba on December 5, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I define peace as an inner pleasantness that i’m comfortable with which does not require the presence of anything except God. I love being alone but that does not constitute peace to me, it is being fine in any circumstance b/c His presence is with me.



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on December 23, 2011 at 1:48 PM

      Floralba, I love your definition of peace! Thank you for sharing!



  3. Paige Velzeboer on December 5, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    We also decided to cut back this year, instead of traveling for the holiday’s which is a requirement of my husband’s family as they are spread out across the entire US, we are sending our teenager and the rest of us are staying home. I find that traveling during this time add so much pressure that it is difficult to find peace when you are packing the entire house and lugging it through airports. This year we decided to do what is going to provide us with rest, peace and not so much guilt. I do find that is another aspect of the holiday’s that I am often riddled with, guilt of not providing enough time, presents or fill in the blank. This year I am putting that down, taking the time to mediate on spending quite moments with my family, baking goodies instead of shopping and knowing that I am worthy of giving love without a price tag!



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on December 23, 2011 at 1:52 PM

      Paige, It is so true that we can feel amazingly guilty for simplifying. Full disclosure: This morning I just about had a melt down because we took the kids to the mall for Santa pictures and the line was 2 hours long. No Santa pictures. In our “simplifying” this year, we didn’t worry about it in advance, and now it won’t happen. I feel horribly guilty for missing this picture in the Santa series. There should be no guilt with simplicity, yet we are wired so differently! Thanks for your comment!



  4. Jennifer on December 6, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    I guess I think peace and simplicity DO correlate. I think of peace as the opposite of chaos. You know me, I have always sought to live a simplistic life, and often I get the comment that my home is so peaceful. I can’t tell you how often that I’ve gotten a comment like that. When we fill our lives with things and with thing to do, we fill up the space and time that is meant to be filled by Jesus. We have to live simply (in my opinion) in order to really experience His presence. Because if we don’t live simply, we simply don’t have the time and energy to devote to our relationship with him.

    That being said, different people can enjoy and handle different amounts of activities. I’m a person who gets to my max in the social realm and with possessions pretty quickly. Others would get bored with my “simple” life.



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on December 23, 2011 at 1:56 PM

      Jenn, I agree with you that there IS a correlation – it is pretty difficult to rest in the presence of Jesus when our schedules are out of control. I would just “stipulate” that we don’t automatically find His presence through achieving simplicity (as I was led to ponder in this post). I love your point too that different people can handle different levels of activity. What constitutes “enough” simplicity to find true peace is on a per person basis. We just have to be mindful of our own thresholds. Thanks for your comment!



  5. Jennifer Taylor on December 19, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    I always find it funny how God will turn the tables on me. I was referred to this blog by a friend who, by the grace of our Lord, finds it fascinating despite being single, childless, and agnostic. I have been reading every post, wondering what intrigued her so about your ideas, and then I came across this post.

    I’m frankly undone by the simple question of peace being absence or presence. If I’m honest, I have to say that the only real peace I have ever found was in His presence, but lately, I have to admit that I have been seeking peace in the absence of work, family time, society, and a host of other areas, including, to my great shame, His presence.

    I have lately found His presence so unsettling and painful. I don’t want to read the Bible very often, where I used to devour it. I don’t want to go to church very often, when I used to make it the most important time of the week. I don’t want to talk to my Christian friends and family, when they are all that matter to me in life. Because I’m afraid. I’m so afraid, because I don’t want to be good right now. I don’t want to die to myself. My flesh cries out, every moment of the day, to be satisfied, indulged, glutted. My spirit warring against these desires convicts me, but that still small voice is overruled again and again.

    I know He has not left me alone. I know He is here with me right now. But I still feel like a prisoner to my old man.

    I’m sorry for the length of this response, but I want to thank you for your obedience. He has used it in this moment to help me put words to a fear that I have been struggling so hard with. God bless and keep you and your family.



    • Natasha @ Christian Mom Thoughts on December 23, 2011 at 2:11 PM

      Jennifer, Thank you so much for this comment; it means a lot to hear that my post helped you in thinking through this struggle. I’m sorry that you are feeling caught in such spiritual “warfare”. I have felt like that many times myself. I don’t think we can ever get to a point where we purely want to die to ourselves; if that were the case, we would be filled with the Spirit constantly and no one is so perfect as to cast aside their sin nature 100% of the time. I don’t know if you had a chance to read my earlier post about Fruits of the Spirit, but it was during a difficult time that I had the revelation I described there. It was when I started realizing that it was the Spirit that had to change my heart (and I can’t do it on my own) that things changed a lot for me. I started praying regularly that God would help me to set aside my sin nature and instead fill me with the Spirit so that I would think through the Spirit, feel through the Spirit, see through the Spirit, hear through the Spirit. It was like the burden I was fighting melted away. It still comes back, but I feel like I understand WHY now (I have lost my focus on the Spirit once again). I hugely recommend Francis Chan’s Forgotten God book that I mentioned in that post if you want to ponder more on this topic. Thank you again for your post, and for sharing about your journey. (I loved to hear how you found the blog through your friend also! 🙂



  6. Aimee on January 14, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    We thought we just were not invited to the party this year. We really missed it 🙂



  7. Dawn Burkhart on January 24, 2012 at 10:17 PM

    I know for me and my family we always focus on Christ. We’ve never made much fuss about Santa, matter of fact we don’t bring it up unless the kids mention it. We buy the kids 3 Christmas presents each. Representing the 3 gifts from the wise men. 1-something they need 2-something they want 3-something they can use. And then Santa brings them each one gift. We do lot’s of activites throughout the season, but our focus remains on doing and giving to others. We talk about the birth story and how the Christmas traditions started, how it came to be that we celebrate Christs birth on Dec 25. How the world has influenced Christmas. The commercialization (mainly my older child) of the season. And this works for our family. Everyone has a great time, little stress, good memories. I also have 5 children and a friend of mine shared her 3 gift philosophy when my oldest was 6 mo. It was his 1st Christmas and I had bought everything in site. I went so far in debt that I was miserable. That was the only time that happened. We have a set amount, we figure out what they are each getting, make a list, go get it and we are done. Takes me less than an hour to shop for all 5 of them. This is how I define simplicity and peace for our family.