Peace Among the Pieces

My son loves Legos, which is great for me because I loved Legos when I was a kid. So, that means I get to play with my son’s Legos now. What? I paid for them. It’s only right.

When I was a kid, I played with G.I. Joes, too. That was my go to toy. When we went to the store, I went straight to the G.I. Joe aisle. No stopping to take in the Transformers, no pausing to peruse the Hotwheels. It was just straight to G.I. Joe. And the best part – for me at least – about getting a brand new G.I. Joe was putting it together! There were instructions and decals and all these different parts! I loved when everything was done and it all fit together. And truth be told, I enjoyed putting them together almost as much as playing with them.

I’ve realized something recently, and this is a little hard to talk about, but I’m a bit of an instructions Nazi. Whether it’s toys or a new gadget or the grill my wife bought me for Father’s Day last summer. The instructions are the holy text, and thou shalt not build without first reading the instructions! But man, have I come to realize how wrong I am.

And with that, I’d like you to think about this.

My overemphasis on instructions has affected my son when it comes to Legos. We open the box and I immediately go to the instructions and lay it out. “Okay, step one: Sorting! No, don’t start putting them together, we have to sort according to color and size, son. See, there’s a little picture of the Lego man doing just that.”

Of course it only gets worse later when I see him taking apart his Legos to make other stuff, stuff that’s not in the instructions and stuff that simply shouldn’t be! These creations are anti-Lego, I tell you. They have twenty wheels and five wings and three seats and four steering wheels and…

And then I stop and I realize that I’m being an instructions Nazi.

Why? Why do I do this to myself? Why do I do this to my kids? Why do I get so anxious when I see that toy or grill or whatever not put together the right way?

I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day with my neurosis. But I won’t let them. Because I think I’ve figured it out. Or at least, I’ve figured out why I’ve had such a hard time kicking this habit in my later years. It all comes down to peace.

When the Bible talks about peace, it uses two words from the Hebrew and Greek: Shalom and Eirene. Those words don’t mean “a state of mutual harmony” or “the absence of conflict” like our English word means. Both of those words mean pretty much the same thing – Wholeness; Completeness; Put together the right way.

Whenever I learned this, a light bulb went off in my head. *DING* “Oh! Now I get it. To have peace means that everything has to fit together just right.” And since I was an instructions Nazi, it made perfect sense to me. If all the pieces fit, then I can have peace.

How many of you know that when a light bulb goes off it doesn’t always equate to a good idea? Yeah, I’m learning that.

So, my misunderstanding of this whole Shalom/Wholeness thing only served to reinforce my neurosis about instructions.

“No! You need to make sure all your Legos are put together the right way, son. Don’t you understand Shalom?

“No! I need to make sure this assignment is perfect before I turn it in. Don’t you understand Shalom?

“No! I won’t feel fulfilled until all the boxes in my life are checked off. Don’t you understand Shalom?

Well, guess what…I was the one that didn’t understand Shalom. And I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to scream it like that.

The peace of God is not about having all the pieces fit together. The Apostle Paul says as much when he tells us, “Hey, it’s not like I’ve arrived or anything, guys. I’m banging around on this planet just like you, trying to figure all of this stuff out.” (Philippians 3:12)

That’s a paraphrase, but it’s a good paraphrase. And that’s an Apostle! Capital “A” Apostle! Like, wrote down the words of God and we’ve been reading them for 2000 years, Apostle. And all the pieces didn’t fit for him. What makes me think that I’ll have it all put together?

Now, I’m not sure if he ever struggled with the whole Shalom thing too, but I bet he did. He was big into following the Law – which is basically just instructions – before he started following Jesus. But then grace took over big time. And this is how he defined peace:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

So, what is Shalom if it’s not having everything together? I guess the key is that it only comes from God. We look at our lives – at least I do – and I think, “Man, I’m so off track from where I thought I would be. I’m not in the shape I want to be in. My bank account isn’t as full as I want it to be. I don’t meditate, pray, and read my Bible as much as I want to.” And I look at all that and come to the conclusion that Shalom is a long way off.

But then I look at my kids. Put together? HA! My son combs his own hair. You should see it! It’s all messed up and sticking up and flat in the front and a rat’s nest in the back. And he puts the comb down and smiles real big and gives me a thumbs up. And I give him one right back. You know why? Because he’s figured out Shalom. And I haven’t. But I’m trying.

Here’s the deal – I look at his hair and I would never say, “Son, that’s a complete mess!” Even if it is, it’s perfect to me because he’s my son. I wouldn’t want him to be filled with anxiety over something like his hair, or his bed being messed up, or his Legos not being put together the right way. And I don’t think God wants us filled with anxiety over those little things either. Just like I’m my son’s dad, God is my dad. And when he looks down and sees how messed up I am, he still gives me a thumbs up. I don’t know why. He probably shouldn’t. I wouldn’t give me a thumbs up. I guess that’s why Paul said that the peace of God surpasses our understanding.

Put together? HA! I’ve got more Lego pieces missing than I care to admit. But I’m working on it. And my life may end up with twelve wheels and three doors and the blocks are all different colors.

But God gives me a lot of slack. I need to start giving my son a bit more when it comes to his Legos. And I probably need to give myself some more slack when it comes to having all the pieces fit. After all, peace isn’t pieces that fit together perfectly. Peace is being thankful that God gives us a thumbs up anyway.