“Peace holds me when I’m broken, / Sweet peace that passes understanding. / When the whole wide world is crashing down, I fall to my knees / And breathe in Your peace.”- Peace, We The Kingdom
“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”- Francis of Assisi
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all.”- 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)
For years this unique photo of my parents styling and profiling intrigued me. Who took this photo – and why? My curiosity piqued, I researched taking photos of people on the street. And here’s what I found out.
In the 1930s in North America, photographers moved from the refined space of a studio setting to the expanse of the street. Because during the Great Depression, people struggled to acquire the basic necessities of life. So, no money remained for a luxury like formal studio portraits.
As a result, street photographers, aka sidewalk photographers, often took candid shots of people walking down the street. A style commonly known as ‘walking pictures.’ After taking a candid shot, the photographer handed the subject(s) a numbered ticket. Then, he/she invited them to stop at the studio later to buy a copy of the photo. This concept reached its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s.
With the whole wide world crashing down during the Great Depression, the sidewalk photographers resourcefully calmed the storm. Writing in her latest book, WayMaker, Ann Voskamp challenges our thinking about shalom:
” It’s more than a greeting, more than a saccharine, nebulous feeling. Shalom is an identity, a way of being, a way of stilling and deeply trusting. And it means more than peace. While peace may mean no distance between hearts, shalom means no distance between one’s heart and God’s. Shalom means a heart that is one with God’s.”
Furthermore, Ann observes, here’s the miracle. Regardless of whatever else life brings, Christ brings us shalom. Most significantly, the WayMaker (God) makes the way. Not to a place, but to a Person – Christ. The only one who brings us shalom. Thus, we always find peace in the person of Christ. We breathe in Your peace.
And God comes near to carry you the distance. He whispers secret hopes in your ear and cuts your fears down to size. He’s the God who talks through time, speaking in ways that move through the world. God’s never a small, far-off distant God.
In Hebrew stories of old, Ann relates, hashalom? served as a colloquial question to greet a newcomer. It functioned as one’s way of asking if everything is all right, or well (see 2 Kings 9:11). Consequently, Ann expands this concept:
“Everything is all right not when we have seized the dream, fought off all suffering, attained our own promised land; everything is all right when we still and rest in the shalom of wholeness and oneness, attachment, with God who is our everything (emphasis Ann’s).”
In conclusion, Ann notes, shalom, and its related word, shalem, refers to two things:
- the whole, uncut stones of an altar (Deuteronomy 27:6, Joshua 8:3)
- the wellness of an undivided heart – unafraid and untroubled
Above all, Ann counsels, your trust centers on where your mind stays, or fixes. Hence, your mind curls around Peace Himself, Christ, as you lean your mind and its burden of worries on God’s steady shoulder. Resolve not to wander off. Stay and bind your mind to Jesus. Exhale into Jesus. And say, “I breathe in Your peace.”