I leaned against a wooden hand rail overlooking the St. Johns River. Bodies of water had always been places of encounter for me. A place I could go to meet God and feel His beautiful presence.
I would seek out those places as a teenager and young adult. I could leave the turmoil on land, and the sound of the lapping of waves would cleanse my heart. I could look out across vast expanses and feel completely at peace doing nothing but observing.
I could stop “doing” and just . . . ‘be.’
I remember a time a year ago. The LORD was doing a process of deep healing in me, and I was wrestling with a lot of darkness from my past. It was one of those divinely orchestrated days, where God gave me the means to get to the beach. The sun had gone down. I love the beach at night.
I found my favorite “spot.”
I went searching, looking for answers. A way out of the misery I faced. I’d survived my past, but I was still struggling with the burdens of my current life circumstances.
I sat my butt down on the sand, and look up at the night sky and started crying. I cried and cried and cried. Life was so heavy. So impossible. The challenges too great. I was one little woman. Who was I to carry so much weight? I couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to quit.
I just cried out to God with a tear stained face and said, “I don’t want to be sad anymore.”
I thought God was going to give me a strategy or a game plan or a formula. But instead, He just kept saying, “I love you,” again and again and again. I love you. I love you. I love you.
At the time, I thought, “That’s it? That’s it, God? You love me?” It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I didn’t feel very loved. I thought love would wipe away all the pain I felt. Love would take that away, right?
Now I know that God so loved me that He had put me in a process to heal the wounds of my past, to set me free of bondages that were keeping me trapped in darkness, and that His love sometimes means we go through difficult and painful circumstances because it’s best for us.
I sat on the beach and cried in the presence of God as He told me He loved me. I just let it all out – all the pain. All the hurt. All the sadness. He squeeze it out of me, until I found a place of peace.
The moon was so so so bright in the night sky, and as clear as day I saw Orion’s belt like I’d never seen before. Light streak across the waves as they rolled in, and I marveled that God could make such a beautiful display for us. Bioluminescent living things who could glow in the night.
This afternoon, the St. Johns River was nestled under a gentle blue sky with fluffy white clouds. I remembered that poor girl, trapped in the darkness. I wasn’t her anymore.
In those moments of surrender, we don’t know what the end looks like but I was walking in a taste of it. God had brought me through a process of learning to find joy, even in trials and tribulations. That night on the beach, I traded my sorrow for joy and entered into a process of learning to overcome the darkness. Now, I was like a walking balloon filled with joy. The scales of darkness and sadness had fallen off, and I was able to look around and see light. What a different world!
This day, I came with a new request for God. “I don’t want to fight anymore.”
It’s not that I didn’t want to fight; God made me to be a fighter. But I’ve been fighting the same old battle with the same person for years. It was nothing but turmoil to my soul.
This last Sunday, a wonderful woman of God preached about how Solomon’s kingdom had peace on all sides, and she gave the example of Almolonga, Guatemala, and how God had transformed that region. Most of the population is saved. Jails closed. The land is pure and prospering. They have peace on all sides.
And at that moment alongside the river, listening to “There is a Peace” by Harvest, I just felt my soul crying out for that promise – that possibility that I could have peace on all sides. I wanted peace to be who God created me to be. I wanted peace to be a mother. I wanted peace to be able to work. I wanted peace as a lifestyle. I wanted rest.
I wanted to fight battles that produced victory in my life and the lives of others, not time-wasting, emotionally-draining battles over the same “stuff” with no resolution.
Months back, a spiritual father preached about the difference between peace keepers and peace makers. Peace keepers do what is necessary to avoid confrontation, but peace makers run to the confrontation so that victory can be obtained and peace can reign. Peace keepers allow tyranny and oppression to continue, and the innocent suffer. Peace makers fight against it so that those who come behind can enjoy the peace on all sides.
Being a peace keeper will keep you in the same stupid battles creating turmoil in your soul. Being a peace maker ends the battle so you can move on to the next.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
“Peace makers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18)
I think that day on the river, God showed me the reality that peace on all sides is available if we fight the right battles with the right strategies. Not just working and working and working to keep the peace, but being fearless to run toward the confrontations that are going to bring about a righteous resolution. I had tried to keep peace for years because I was afraid. I was terrified of a confrontation. But, that day, I realized I needed to stop fighting out of old wounds, and start fighting in love for peace and goodness to be established in the world.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7).
That day by the river, the peace of God surrounded me, rushing in like water to irrigate the debris of the past from my heart. My soul seemed to let go of those old wounds so that I would be empty to receive the peace and rest I was so desperate for in that moment.
I felt refreshed and renewed to continue on a difficult pathway I knew would bring victory. I was hungry for the shift. I wanted peace on all sides.