Today is my birthday. Because I’m blessed with a large family and many friends, I’m inundated with messages, loving gestures, etc. Even my “computer” wished me Happy Birthday when I logged on this morning – and I have to admit it was quite nice! An airline I’ve used in the past sent me a message too; as well as my insurance company!! Whew!!
But it made me start to think: there are some, perhaps many, people whose only acknowledgement of their “special day” comes from a computerized list – an automatically generated message based on info stored in their massive data banks. For these folks, who’s to say that in some small way, this too is the Shalom of God?
To be clear, “shalom” is a Hebrew word meaning peace, used as a greeting and a farewell. Actually, I had to look this up. It’s one of those words that you “think” you know, but that can also have some embedded meaning. Not wanting to misspeak prompted me to the dictionary. And glad I did because it opened up to me a bit more depth than a casual statement. For instance:
- A word meaning peace. What is peace? In a world filled to the brim with angst, fear mongering is the “soup de jour” for most everything we see and hear! It’s almost an addiction …it’s like we’re afraid NOT to hear about the worst, the most dreadful, the most ugly! Some think it’s the only way to “protect” themselves: be on the alert …know your enemy …SEE your enemy before you are harmed. Is “peace” somehow hiding your head in the sand? Is peace a brand of “Pollyanna naivety” that leaves you vulnerable?? …..OR is “peace” allowing yourself to be awake to the fact that “in this instant,” you’re okay, knowing that the “what ifs” of the future don’t exist. Even IF “in this instant” you’re suffering, peace allows you to remember that nothing lasts forever. Peace reminds you to stay in the moment, sit still and listen. Even your suffering can be your teacher if you can be calm enough to let it speak. This truly takes “God’s” peace to achieve – and that’s what Shalom means.
- A word meaning greeting. Just like my birthday messages, a greeting of hello says “I see you.” It says you are visible …you are worth being met at the door and led to the front row. It says you “matter;” you mean something to me; it says the world wouldn’t be the same without you. And if you think there’s no one to speak this to you …look at the sunrise! Listen to the birds! Feel the wind blow across your cheek! ALL are gestures of greeting – and that’s what Shalom means.
- A word meaning farewell. Bittersweet describes many a goodbye. Things change, and sometimes it’s hard to accept what once was wonderful or comfortable is somehow different now. Farewell, broken down, means may you “fare well” …may you “do well” until we meet again – and that’s what Shalom means.
As I wake this morning to my birthday, Shalom is hovering around me. It gives me peace in saying farewell to my 68th year, and greetings to what the 69th will bring. Shalom, then, seems to be much more than a word. It’s an embrace, an invitation, an opportunity in every moment to dance in the circle! What if that waltz could circle back and next year I’d be 68 again, then 67?? Maybe not chronologically, but in mind-set, in spirit, in anticipation of “what’s next” and never in dread of “what no longer can be.” That, too, is Shalom. And in that meaning, I wish Shalom to all of you.