I saw today how war can be just one heartbeat away.
We drove to Fredericksburg to exchange a piece of broken furniture for its new replacement. We pulled into the parking lot behind the retailer and parked between the only two other cars there. As we got out and moved to the rear of our truck, I saw The Players. A white guy to our left and a black guy to our right.
The white guy went over to the black guy and said something we couldn’t quite hear. Then, as he returned to his car, he unleashed a torrent of expletives deleted, directed specifically to the black guy. In a word, it was ugly. I mean, UGLY. From what I could gather, the white guy had been there first and thought the black guy was “butting” in line ahead of him. In less than a heartbeat, the black guy responded in kind. More UGLY-ness. Then they were “at” each other (verbally), like water on a gasoline fire… with us, right in the middle.
Maybe it’s simplistic, but maybe not… Is this how wars get started? And if wars can be just one heartbeat away, can peace be also?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Without coming up with any conscious “strategy,” Bud and I began to work as a team. I knew You were right there, Lord… prompting each of us to split-second interventions. Bud raised and lowered his hands slowly in that universally-recognized gesture that gently says “Calm down.” I went first to the white guy, then to the black guy, and basically said (as I looked them in the eyes), “Sir, I would be happy to move our truck if it would be helpful to you.”
Suddenly, the whole atmosphere changed. I know it was more than just what we did and said, Lord. I know it was Your Presence that made the difference. I don’t know how to explain it, except to say that in the face of Your Presence, and the calming gestures and quiet, respectful words You drew out of us, the harshness of the previous moments became obviously out-of-place. Both combatants stood down… and then, they left.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
There’s something significant here… isn’t there, Lord? Maybe it won’t solve the Middle East conflict, or the craziness going on in much of the world today. But I wonder: Maybe it’s time for us, as Your people, to get “in the middle” more. In those moments when people (even strangers) are using their words as weapons before they pick up their guns. In those moments when offenses are taken and hearts begin to harden. Maybe if we got “in the middle” there more often — with You, of course, leading the way — we might be surprised at what (or who) You would change!
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:20)
Praying for the peace of Jerusalem (and everywhere else)…