Elusive Calm

elusive calm

“They don’t know where to find peace. They have no fear of God at all.”

Romans 3:17-18

This is the conclusion to the passage that begins with “No one is righteous-not even one…all have turned away.” (v 10-12)

When we turn from You, it is not just You we leave behind, but all that You provide for those who follow, those who trust: wisdom, direction, unreserved joy, unshakeable peace.

And when we leave You behind, we do not know where to find it again. Take away the fear of You and all sorts of other fears rush in.

Peace is not to be found.

But if I choose to still those other fears and make You the highest, to regard You more than any other factor that seeks to direct my life, a great calm settles over all the frantic questions, all the persistent worries, all the silent dread.

Thoreau said this: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to their graves with the song…”

I think it’s because we don’t know where to find peace. I forget all the time. I grasp for it in all the wrong places.

Is it at the end of this to do list?

Is it past all the errands?

Is it waiting behind my next goal, my next step, my next project?

Is it just beyond my reach because something terrifying stands between us?

It is strangely elusive, especially when I am consumed with worry and most desperate for it.

But it is found in fearing You, in returning to this sacred place, these quiet halls, where I shut out the other noise and seek to hear one still, small voice. Where I shut out the other demands and remember that one thing is needed. Where I turn my eyes from all that threatens, all that warns I am sure to fail, and choose instead to see who You are and what You have done.

When I allow You to become bigger in my thinking than all the things that gnaw away at me inside, the ache and the racing thoughts and the torment of my heart stops and I am here. And so is peace. So is the calm.

I could not find my way to it by digging and analyzing and wrestling for answers to settle my problems. Peace is not found at the end of problems, but in the midst of them.

And that is why I often don’t know where to find it. Because it seems like a thing I can only have once THIS is out of the way. So I don’t look. I see peace as a hard-earned treasure I reach only at the end, not as the warrior who guards my heart all along the way.

“…Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Peace is not something I have once I settle my heart, my mind. It is Your gift for hearts and minds that are unsure, unsettled, with unsolved problems and unresolved fears.

Peace is what You give when I say, “I’m deeply bothered and I don’t have answers for this, but I trust You , so please help me!”

We don’t know where to find peace because it’s not something we work our way to or fashion for ourselves; it is a gift that only comes from one source, and only when we have stopped trying to solve our own problems and come to Him for help.

Snake bites

snake 3

“So when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another: ‘No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow him to live.’ But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.”

Acts 28:4-5


How quickly I assume I can attach meaning to the events that unfold around me. How easily I decide ‘I know what this means.’ How strongly I believe I can piece together their purpose, their significance, if I only think about it long enough and hard enough. How important it seems to make sense of things.

But the natives of Malta were wrong.

Being bit by a snake apparently does not always mean you are a murderer. And often, as satisfied as I feel when I think I have nailed down the meaning of things…I am wrong, too.

It makes me wonder as I think back through the years to all the meaning and significance I found learning to be independent and single. I grew deeper in my relationship with you, Lord, and that was good! But what other conclusions did I come away with?

When we are dumped or bitten by a snake, we feel we have to know why. But many of the why’s I came up with were wrong.

I don’t need anyone.

I’m better off undistracted.

I’m not marriage material.

Anyone else I get close to will just decide they don’t want me either.

Men can’t be trusted.

Better to invest in “safe” relationships.

I have a purpose I  must fulfill alone.

One after the other, they roll off my pen: assumptions. Some I’ve never even thought to challenge. Until I teasingly (but semi-seriously) asked another pilot wife the other day how she felt about her “role or lack thereof.”

She glowed. She told me how important she thought her husband’s training was; how proud she was of him; how proud she was to be able to help.  She said her struggle was finding too much of her identity in her husband and his calling, not feeling like she didn’t fit into it.

And so I started trying to understand why this has been harder for me. I, too, once felt that desire to be part of man’s life, wherever he went, whatever he did; just desperate to be with him.

But the snakebite stung and I tried to figure out why, and slowly, I decided it had been stupid to feel that way.

I reasoned that it had been short-sighted to limit my goals and my purpose to joining a man and having a family. I sorted out that my pain must have been my own fault, because I had let myself need him so badly; and I determined that I would never put myself in that position again. I would forge my own calling. I could not have a husband and a family, so I would just have to figure something else out that was equally as meaningful; something that being dumped couldn’t take away.

Damage was done when my heart was dangled and dropped off a cliff that day. But more damage was done when I obsessed with understanding why.

Paul could have heard the native’s concerns and become paranoid that he was going to die and gone into all sorts of ruin, just when he had become such a voice of hope to the crew. But he shook the snake off into the fire and no harm came to him. He did not worry, and he did not need to.

Sometimes, you get bit just because there’s a snake there, not because the universe is dealing out justice. But you do harm when you interpret things that way, especially to your own heart.

I am a native of Malta, and I have tried to make sense of things when it would have been better to just trust you; to decide I didn’t have to establish a reason, I could just ask for help getting through it.

“The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?”

Proverbs 20:24

“How unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out. Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?”

Romans 11:33-34

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

John 16:12

So here I am, seven years later, recognizing that part of my ongoing struggle is that, in learning to be part of someone else’s calling, I was feeling that I had lost mine. But if I could go back seven years, to the girl that was desperate to fall in love, to marry, to belong to someone, to follow him anywhere, to be loved and cherished and wanted, and begged for someone who would see her that way…I might realize I have not lost my calling.

I do not have to scrape out my own niche or defend that I have some separate, equally important purpose. Together, you have led us. Together we are here, and this calling belongs to us both.

An old calling I stuffed away has resurfaced and it can hold all the passion and purpose I thought I had finally reclaimed in singlehood, if I let it.

If I will decide it is not bad to need. It is not bad to trust. It is not bad to risk.

It is not even bad to hurt. It is evidence of life, of growth, of stepping out.

Hurt is part of passion;  but so is thrill, so is hope. I can’t have the high points without risking pain. But you have made it so that pain does not end us. It only shapes us; and it can shape us for the better if we put it in your hands and find meaning in you-instead of trying to translate all the details of an impossibly complicated universe, and chasing a desperation that says I must understand them all to be okay.


I don’t understand all the “why’s.” But I can trust you. I can trust that in your hands, what I have gone through is not for nothing.

I can shake off the snake, blink through the smart of the snake bite, refuse to worry about why, and walk forward. Following, watching you, deciding I don’t have to conduct a side investigation where I figure out everything on my own; that it is okay not to have the answers sometimes.

Content with some mystery, because whatever you’re doing,

it’s good.



Nineveh 2

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: ‘Didn’t I say before I left home that You would do this, Lord? That’s why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that You are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord, I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.’ The Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about this?’ “

Jonah 4:1-4

Jonah didn’t answer. Instead, he built a shelter so he could watch and see if maybe You would still destroy the city. Livid that what he predicted might not come to pass; sore that Your mercy might damage his reputation; determined to be proven right.

Jonah didn’t answer You. So You sent a plant, then a worm, then You asked him again:

“Is it right for you to be angry?”

And you pointed out how crooked Jonah had allowed his heart to become: angry over the death of a plant, but looking forward to the deaths of 120,000 people.

“Is it right for you to be angry?”

More of my time should be spent on this question, not on, “Is it right for them to treat me this way? Is it right for me to have to go through this?” Those questions only frustrate me further. You have allowed me to go through this. Rather, I should give my hurt and my anger to You, ask You to help me with this ruffled heart of mine, and teach me to trust You through it.

But I am Jonah.

You love them and they need You, I get it.

But I do not feel structurally sound enough to be around someone who constantly makes me feel inferior and humiliated.

It makes me want to run.

I am Jonah.

You  have said to go to Nineveh, to speak to Nineveh, and I am DONE with Nineveh before I even start. I do not like Nineveh. I do not care what happens to Nineveh. I haven’t booked a cruise to the opposite side of the sea yet, but I’m definitely in a sit-on-the-cliff-above-them-and-watch-them-burn mood.

And I would probably have it out with You if you let my shade plant die in the process.

Lord…soften my heart.

I am Jonah.

And Jonah was wrong.

Help me to love Nineveh instead of counting up all their offenses to feed my anger.

You are broken for Nineveh, and I just want them out of my life, out of my way. You are broken for Nineveh, and I am angry and offended at them. Your heart is to rescue Nineveh; mine is to avoid them at all costs.

And You must change my heart before You change theirs, because Your heart is also to use me.



I am sorry I give so little mercy before I grow angry. I am so focused on myself, I see very little of what might drive the hurtful words that come from Nineveh. Hurt drives hurtful words, but I don’t see their hurt; I see mine.

I don’t see 120 hours of chances to care for them and point them to a God whose heart is set on their rescue, not their judgment. I see a massive amount of time I have to survive with them before I can be around someone I like.

Change my heart, Lord. It is seething.

So livid at whatever stands in the way of its own happiness, it does not even see that I have started to worship my own comfort and shut out the heart of the God who rescued me.


/So I shall call her Nineveh, and I won’t run away.

Though it takes all I have, Lord, I am here to stay./


For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps…who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.

1 Peter 2:21, 23