shortcut to well-being

28 01 2014


Chilled drinks, eggs, well-being. Aisle no.5, please. I didn’t realise it was so simple. You can buy well-being off the shelf, which according to this aisle, generally involves being free-from things. 

Whilst being a bit tongue in cheek, there’s something quite profound here. In a world in which we are constantly labelled as consumers, apparently happy as long as we’re devouring, there’s a deep craving for well-being. Which is what, exactly? A utopian dream? The bare minimum?

Well-being has nothing to do with over-priced branded durum wheat. And everything about the depth of peace in your soul. How often do we hear people returning from trips abroad to work with those in deep poverty and hear them be amazed at how the people could still smile, laugh, have faith, be. Without wifi? Granary bread? TV? And yet we forget. It confuses us because we revert to being consumers demanding well-being off the shelf.

God says we must work at it.

The Jewish faith have this concept of shalom. It’s a greeting, yes, it means ‘peace’, sort of. Because it means so much more. Shalom is the knowledge that everything is as God would have it be. Shalom is the knowledge of true peace. It is a dream, yes. Can it be reality? Yes. It is bought off the shelf? No.

This is where we cannot simply consume.

This was brought home to me sharply by a friend who is a foster parent. Those of us involved in fostering and adoption know a lot about well-being, shalom, and the results of a lack of it. He passed this on to me (from Pete Greig – Emmaus Rd podcast 19th Jan:

Here are some symptoms of adults who didn’t form appropriate attachments as a child:
1. Broken relationships
2. Depression
3. Anxiety
4. Sensitivity to rejection
5. Anger
6. Higher ratio of criminality
7. Commitment phobia
8. Violence
9. Instability & addictive patterns.
And here is a list you might recognise which has more-or-less exact opposites to the above (compare them for yourself):
1. Love
2. Joy
3. Peace
4. Patience & forbearance
5. Kindness
6. Goodness
7. Faithfulness
8. Gentleness
9. Self-control.
(Galatians 5 – fruits of the spirit)

Neither he nor I are in any way saying we’ve discovered our own quick-fix to well-being. Be a Christian, be filled with the Spirit, you’ll be fine. Bingo. I’m not that naive. But it is interesting. It is interesting that God has a deep interest in our well-being because he has a deep interest in shalom because he deeply loves us. And when you love, you want the best.

God’s plan for us is that of shalom. When he saved us from sin, that wasn’t saving us from each individual act of naughtiness that we so often equate it with. No, he was saving us from a world in which there could never be peace because the very core of our being was ridden with cancer of selfishness that comes from being apart from God. Like cancer, we can do our best to remove bits that destroy shalom but if it’s in the blood, it will return. No matter how many gyms we join, well-being foods we eat and Facebook petitions we sign. Evil will out. 

Being saved is the new life that means the infection is gone and shalom is possible. Shalom is not a given. It is a life’s work. But it is a source of great hope. Great hope that even those with the most terrible of beginnings can find peace; hope that those who live in the midst of great darkness can find a peace within it; and that in the end, shalom is better than stuff.

Even the stuff from aisle no.5. 



3 responses

4 02 2014

Isn’t peace one of those things that when you go looking for it, in a shopping aisle or a Church aisle, on a holiday or at home, you can’t find it. Its when you are living your life for others, giving to those without peace, those who have suffered through lack of attachment, those to whom life appears to have given a bad deal, then you suddenly discover true peace. Even then it is ephemeral and if you relax and try to grab it, it bursts like a soap bubble. Peace is the gift of God and sometimes he takes it away so that we will get energised and share in the unpeace of the world and try to do something about it, even only in an apparantly small way, by showing love to a little one or blessing an old lady lying on her kitchen floor.

Gods peace is real, but it is also an enigma.

4 02 2014

Peace is a gift of God, not earned or bought. When I have my own agenda I lose peace. When I stick with God peace returns!

17 02 2014

it also comes when we are finally honest with God about our anger, hatred, bitterness, brokenness… when we stop pretending and simply admit to Him all that rotteness that comes out of us directed at others and defiles us and damages them. Although I suspect it defiles us at least as much when it stays bottled up and unacknowledged… letting it out to God, however – now that’s another thing, and is essential if we are to know shalom.

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