Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Jehovah Shalom, or My Search for Peace

Jehovah-Shalom says much to me as a name of God. It reveals that He is Peace, literally: “The Lord is Peace.” Jehovah--God is; Shalom--complete, whole.

I first encountered my need for peace in my childhood. Although I was shielded from open confrontations, I nevertheless discerned that the structure of relationships in my family was not natural. As an avid reader, I saw what authors divined a family structure should or could be. My family definitely didn’t fit. Where were all the hugs, kisses, and unconditional love?

Instead, I remember an almost frantic desperation to get household chores done and food cooked. Through it all, I tried to make as little noise as possible in order to avoid the detection of my very existence. Detection incurred punishment. The pattern of our lives developed an overly heightened sensitivity in me to the discord in the relationship between my parents, my siblings, and myself.

I remember always trying to escape to somewhere peaceful, be it a place in my imagination, within the pages of a book, the bathroom, or up under the house in a spot so narrow that no one could see or reach me. I was afraid to sleep at night because the night meant struggle for me--fighting demons, spirits, or maybe just an overactive imagination. I can’t clearly tell anymore. I just remember the dread and fear of going to bed at night.

During my teenage years I craved love. I wanted a partner just like I read about in books, like some of the popular kids at school had. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with one when I got one. I didn’t think that far ahead. My main focus was the desire to be complete, because surely something was missing. I knew that if I just had someone, like everyone else who walked around holding hands or kissing in the hallways or having their books carried, I’d be complete. (Not that I wanted to kiss in the hallways--that was a bit much, though holding hands was quite an acceptable show of togetherness. Come to think of it, I actually did have my books carried on many an occasion; it’s just that the carrier wasn’t as tall, or as short, as dark or as light, as smart or as funny or as glasses-less as I thought he should have been). I sought perfection in my partner and ultimately in myself and everyone around me. Needless to say, since we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, I was a frustrated, suicidal teenager.

I graduated from high school at seventeen and moved to New York, where the search for the perfect partner continued. Finally, I met him. He wasn’t too tall; he wasn’t too light or too dark. He was really handsome and, by george, he didn’t wear glasses. His name was Clemente and he was of Hispanic descent. He adored me just as I was and went out of his way to please me. We had several things in common: we were both serious young individuals, with a shared adoration of martial arts movies, long walks in Manhattan, and me.

I invited him over to my house, which was actually a two-bedroom apartment I shared with my elder sister and niece. Aflutter with excitement, I cooked the only dish I was capable of cooking at the time: boiled rice, fried chicken and buttery corn. My sister was not overly enthusiastic about him, but she didn’t give him the cold shoulder. She even invited him to adjourn to the living room to view a family movie, after which she excused herself and my niece. Clemente and I were left to ourselves to cuddle and talk about our goals.

This is when I learned that he expected to have around five children with me! He also felt comfortable enough to let me know that he wished I wouldn’t wear so much makeup or such bright-colored clothing. He also wanted me to eat healthier, etc. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t realize that he had signed his own death warrant. I was blindsided by his intent of multiple impregnations. His controlling attitude scared the life out of me and at the same time stuck in my craw. I had just realized my independence as a young adult, and nobody but nobody was telling me what to do!

My search for the perfect partner continued through a marriage at nineteen, the birth of my one and only daughter, and separation from my husband two years later. After that I met my mate for life (I thought) and commenced a relationship which lasted twelve years.

During those twelve years, we hit many highs and lows. We would be in synch for short periods of time, and then each partner would alternate periods of chasing the other for intimacy. There was love, provision, hand holding, back rubbing, toenail polishing, and scalp greasing, but something was still missing. I had my partner, but no peace; no sense of completion.

That relationship has since dissolved to friendship, and a new relationship has taken its place. I’ve met my Partner for life--and don’t you know He was right there all along, being taken for granted. He was there at my birth when the breath of life was breathed into me and I became a living soul. He was there at my baptism at age seven. He was there in the night through all my nightmares, soothing my brow and making sure that I made it through the night.

He was there when I chose another to be husband, then another to be soul mate for life, entrusting a man with the duties of provider, harbinger of peace, caretaker of my heart, role model and future step-father to my child. His heart was broken over and over when He’d call me and I wouldn’t answer Him because I wasn’t ready to deal, because I wouldn't settle for anything I hadn't chosen. He saw me through my migraines, imparting some of His peace as I lay comatose and traveled outside my body. Those times were my only conscious contact with Him, my iron will and icy wall of denial melting as I cried out to Him from the depths of my soul.

He was my conscience as I daily did a job I detested, while the job He’d created for me laid waste. The epitome of unconditional love, He received me with open arms as I surrendered my all and accepted the commission after three days of lost sanity wherein He showed me what life could really have been like without His presence in my life. Then and there, the missing link clicked into place.

I am still human and I still cringe at my imperfections, which become more glaringly obvious to me the more I learn about my Soul Mate. But instead of looking outside for comfort, I look inward and bask in the peace I find in His presence, in His acceptance of me, His faithful presence throughout my life. He sees the imprint of my DNA, which matches His own and tells Him that I am heir to all His qualities.

I no longer need to seek completion. Peace is not something any human partner can give me, because I already possess it. It became a part of me at age seven, when I said "I do" to my very first Bridegroom. I now realize that peace has been attainable to me at all times. All that was necessary was for me to relinquish my will and rest in the completeness and peace of Jehovah-Shalom.

Copyright (c) 2003, D.S. White, All rights reserved


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