I've been thinking about something everyone says they want: Peace.
I am seeing a broader way to experience peace, one that goes beyond the absence of conflict. It has to do with a marvelous Hebrew word - - Shalom.
In his interesting little book, Thriving in Exile, Steve Elliott recounts the historical significance of this wonderfully rich word.
When we hear the word peace we usually associate this to mean an absence of war or strife, but the Hebrew meaning of the word shalom has a very different meaning. The verb form of the root word is shalam and is usually used in the context of making restitution. When a person has caused another to become deficient in some way, such as a loss of livestock, it is the responsibility of the person who created the deficiency to restore what has been taken, lost or stolen. The verb shalam literally means to make whole or complete. The noun shalom has the more literal meaning of being in a state of wholeness or with no deficiency.
Another writer, Alvin Plantiga, takes it even deeper:
Shalom has a much deeper definition than peace as in absence of conflict. It refers to a perfect state of union with God's original plan for man -- "universal flourishing, wholeness and delight - - a rich state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creater and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures he delights in. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be."
I am struck by the symmetry between the notions of Wellness and Peace in this context. Wellness is more than the absence of disease just as Shalom is more than the absence of conflict. Both offer the promise of a deep, profoundly satisfying relationship with the world around us. And the same God who extended Shalom to his people, Israel, offers me the same reconciling promise: "Abide in my love... that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full."
What a wonderful way to live - - well!