By Alex Tang
I feel like I am a jigsaw puzzle – partially assembled but with many pieces missing. There are pieces of me all over the place. Some pieces are lodged in my wife, children and grandchildren, friends, workplace, church, hobbies, and my social tribes. Other pieces are hidden deep inside my inner being. Some pieces are hidden so deep that I am unaware of them. All my life, I have felt a sense of incompleteness, fragmentation and longing. This longing is a siren call for completeness; for the jigsaw to be assembled; for every piece to be in its rightful place. Then I believe I can really know who I am from the picture on the jigsaw. I recognize this feeling as a hunger for shalom; for wholeness and completeness.
Shalom is a beautiful word in Hebrew. Often translated to English as peace, shalom in the Hebrew context has a far deeper meaning. It denotes wholeness, completeness, fulfilment and contentment. Shalom gives the sense of living in the Garden of Eden with God before the Fall. It implies reconciliation of broken relationships. Shalom gives the picture of a soul fully expressed to its full God-given potential, at peace with itself, with God, with other people and with creation. It affirms everything is in its rightful place.
The New Testament describes Jesus as shalom in two ways. Firstly, Jesus is shalom. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace [shalom] (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is Completeness as God. Secondly, Jesus becomes shalom for us. Paul explains, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace [shalom] with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:1–2, 8–10). By his death on the cross, Jesus becomes shalom or the means of reconciliation with God for us. This shalom with God for us is a one-off event. It is a total and complete reconciliation. The broken relationship is fully healed. This happened more than two thousand years ago.
Yet we hunger for shalom. We hunger not because God’s work is not complete but because our healing has not completed. We are in the process of putting the pieces together as we grow towards spiritual maturity. This takes time. We hunger for what we will become when we are fully matured spiritually which is shalom. Hence our continuing hunger. Lent is the season when our hunger intensifies. This is because during Lent, we are reminded anew of the shalom work of Jesus; God incarnate born to die for us. We need this reminder. We need to be reminded that we must discipline our bodies, mortify our unhealthy desires and renew our easily distracted purpose of spiritual growth as we work towards shalom. We look forward to when we no longer hunger, when we finally are one with Christ, who is himself, shalom.