I thought I was a peaceful person. I’ve been given titles like “Laid-Back, Chill, and Easy-To-Get-Along-With” all my life, and I thought that was peace. I thought keeping the peace meant being a level-headed bystander, one who doesn’t stir the pot or get involved in arguments, but instead avoids conflicts and keeps conversations lighthearted and surface-level. Because creating conflict or inviting others into my pain or the pain I see in the world would hinder peace, right?
This is the philosophy I’ve lived by all my life. In tense situations, I try to change the subject or leave the room. Otherwise, things might get ugly. And ugliness and peace can’t coexist, I told myself.
Lately, I can’t stop thinking about peace. Let me explain. Ever since I was first introduced to the Enneagram system a few years ago, I believed myself to be a Five. For those unfamiliar with the Enneagram system, Fives are The Investigators. They’re “the intense, cerebral type: perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.” I saw myself in all those adjectives (well, maybe not the “intense” bit). I thought it all made sense. I’m a nerd. I’m curious about the world. I thought I was a world investigator, devoted to life-long exploration.
Just two months ago, I realized I hadn’t even investigated my own Enneagram type closely enough. It turns out I’m not the investigative Five at all, but a Nine, otherwise known as The Peacemaker. This should’ve been clear to me from the beginning based on the Enneagram Institute’s description: “Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting.” Well, that all sounds too familiar.
These new revelations sent me into a minor existential crisis. I couldn’t stop thinking about the weight of this title—Peacemaker. It hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it spelled out on the Enneagram’s website that I hate the definition of peace I’ve created for myself. I’ve embraced the complacent resistance of conflict as the ultimate vessel of peace when I should have embraced the resistance of injustice and untruth instead.
As this sank in and I began to question how I could make peace in this world, Ahmaud Arbery—shot. Breonna Taylor—shot. George Floyd—publicly executed by asphyxiation. It’s become painfully clear that peace is not a status quo to keep. For so many, it doesn’t exist. I need to play a part in making it.
I’ve embraced the complacent resistance of conflict as the ultimate vessel of peace when I should have embraced the resistance of injustice and untruth instead.Chris Thiessen
In the wake of this violence, I attended a vigil held in the parking lot of a Missionary Baptist Church (situated directly behind our city’s police headquarters). Many spoke. Many prayed. But I was most struck by a young high school student who shared his experience as a black American. He was shaken, nervous. He stumbled through his notes a few times. Heck, he was speaking in front of a thousand people and vulnerably asking, “Why is there no peace in the ‘Land of the Free’?” I don’t think I could share my fears in front of a thousand people today, let alone when I was a high schooler. But this high school student was making peace by sharing himself—his voice, his fears, his hopes for the future—with an audience he didn’t know. Despite the fear he may have experienced—the anxiety about saying the right thing, the worry about what response he would elicit from the white people in the crowd—he did it anyway.
The courageous speech of this young high schooler reminds me of an entirely different voice which has played over and over in my head recently, that of country rock artist Jason Isbell. Through his 2020 album Reunions, Isbell shares in heartbreaking detail the shortcomings of his marriage, the guilt of self-preservation, and the pain of recovering from alcoholism. “Last night I dreamed that I’d been drinking / Same dream I have ’bout twice a week / I had one glass of wine / I woke up feeling fine / And that’s how I knew it was a dream,” Isbell sings on “It Gets Easier.” He continues to warn that doing the right thing and overcoming your demons will never be easy, no matter how much progress you make. It’s a courageous record in which Isbell invites us into his process of making peace with himself, his wife, and God, even when it hurts. For Isbell, this process boils down to a simple, unshakeable mantra which offers the perfect definition of peace-making courage: “Be afraid, be very afraid / But do it anyway.”
Friends, I’ve been afraid, and I’m ashamed to admit the inconsequential objects of my fear. I’ve been afraid a post on Facebook might make a family member uncomfortable. I’ve been afraid to share my opinion or challenge a joke made in bad taste. People have been afraid of much darker and harsher realities than I, yet here am I, trembling at the keyboard and second guessing every word. I’m not going to change overnight, but I long to share myself with the world without these inhibitions of fear.
Be afraid, be very afraid. But do it anyway.Jason Isbell
I’m comforted knowing even Jesus, full of sorrow, longed for a different way of making peace. He agonized in the garden with a pain I can never know. He had spent three years of ministry making peace in so many ways—healing sickness, flipping tables, imparting wisdom, embracing the broken, rebuking Pharisees, raising the dead. Still, there was work to do. Jesus was afraid of this work, yet he offered himself for the peace of the world anyway. He shared himself totally—his body, his blood, his breath—so we too could overcome our brokenness. He didn’t avoid the conflict. He dove headfirst into its midst and wrestled and anguished and after three days, he conquered. He may have upset thousands, especially the overly-religious, in the final days before his crucifixion, but countless brothers and sisters remain united in his resurrection.
It’s become clear to me that I have not been a peaceful person. I haven’t earned that title or followed Christ’s example of making peace even when it’s agonizing. I’m afraid of what that means—for my habits, my relationships, my choices. But even if that fear never subsides, I pray Christ grants me the courage to share my blood, sweat, tears, time, fears, hopes, attention, and passion with my neighbor. I pray Christ will make me a peacemaker.
Right now, we’re faced with a global challenge to see injustice undone and hearts drawn toward Christ. Thousands are fighting this battle in myriad ways and locations. At the Rabbit Room, we believe music is a real vessel for change, and so we have curated a playlist titled A Lament For Justice. Our responses to injustice are always varied and progressive. In that spirit, I’ve ordered these songs to reflect this progression. We begin with songs of lament where we’re faced with the evil in our world and ask God, “How long, O Lord?” We then move to songs of action, songs that remind us to be the hands and feet of Christ in crises, songs that remind us to break chains where bondage remains. Finally, we land in the comfort of Christ and the hope we have to embrace the peace he has already made. I pray these songs challenge you and minister to you in this present crisis of justice and in whatever future crises may come. Take heart.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”