It caught my eye as I stood in a long line of Christmas shoppers, all doing our best to maintain our merry. I asked the lady behind me if it were okay if I slipped out of line just for a moment to grab something, and she smiled and said, “Of course!” Thirty seconds later I was back with my prize– a white coffee mug with gold embellishments, and the word peace.
My “fancy dishes” are white with gold rims, and I notice dishes that match or compliment them, and when the price is right I add them to my collection, to make my china cupboard look a little prettier. And peace– that was the subject of our Christmas program and a word I’ve been dwelling on a lot this month. It always seems so elusive this time of year. The whole thing just seemed perfect.
I made small talk with the cashier as she rang up my mug and my stocking stuffers. She wrapped it up in paper and put it in my shopping bag. A swipe of my card and I was out the door, onto the next store, already almost forgetting my spontaneous purchase. Who has time for peace when the next stop is the Dollar Tree?
That evening after the kids went to bed I unloaded all my treasures, sorting them into piles– stocking items, gift wrapping supplies, big gifts– and I put my new mug up on the counter to be washed, smiling as I did so. So shiny! I can’t help it. I love shiny, sparkly things.
The next morning I washed my pretty mug, stacked it in the drainer. Answered my daughter’s questions about its origins later on, when she was putting away the dishes. Into the mug cupboard it went, taking its place next to Grumpy Cat and Mount Rushmore, I Heart History and Happy Coffee and the one Christmas mug I could actually find this year. And then on to a busy day– cookies to bake, visits to make, family traditions to uphold, kids in bed, A Christmas Carol, piles of presents. The unexpected addition of a puke bucket. Just another day in paradise at Christmastime.
This morning I happily pulled out my new mug, running my fingers over its curved handle and the gold band around the rim. Poured in the coffee and the carefully measured creamer. And that’s when I discovered the ring of evidence on the counter at the base of the mug– a ring of creamed coffee, slowly growing. A quick investigation showed a long crack, drips of my morning wake-up call oozing steadily from it. Save the coffee was my first thought, and I poured the precious beverage into another mug. My peace mug is broken before I even got to drink out of it! was my second thought.
My prayer journal awaited, open on the table next to my Bible. Who can come before the God of the universe, offer Him adoration for His power and His might and His glorious Presence, and be worried about a $3 mug? So many things that seem so important fade in His light.
Later on, coffee drunk, ginger ale supplied to a child with a sour tummy, I filled the sink with soapy water and washed the peace mug– now useless. I traced the crack I had seen earlier and discovered another one, perpendicular to the first. I rinsed it and placed it out of the way to dry. It’s still pretty, I thought. I can still put it in my cabinet and enjoy it. But how ironic– my peace broken by a careless child or a careless clerk or a careless me– who knows? How sobering to see that beautiful word peace marred by a crack running across its script.
Peace is not a mug. I know this. Obviously it’s not a mug. And the stuff inside the mug– the really important stuff– can be brought to my waiting lips in my old Happy Coffee mug, or my newer Grace mug, or in the one that looks like a chicken or the one with the caffeine molecule on the side or, in a real pinch, in the plain homey red ones that came with my dishes.
Peace is not a mug, and it doesn’t shatter easily, but don’t we just treat it like a fragile thing all on the outside of what’s important? Friend, peace is on the inside, and it doesn’t break. Real peace doesn’t always come dressed up shiny. Real peace is just as real when it’s filling up something plain and boring, something mildly bizarre, something ugly.
Peace isn’t my shiny mug, and it’s not inside it. Peace is Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Peace isn’t my Christmas tree, my perfect plates of Christmas cookies, a beautiful family memory watching It’s a Wonderful Life, or getting through December with nobody throwing up. It’s not a pile of presents or a beautiful Christmas carol. It’s not any of that, any of this outward stuff we put our hope and expectations in.
Peace is found in the deep places, the places where we surrender our desires and our selves and our expectations, places where we give thanks and offer prayer and dwell on truth and beauty– babies in mangers, angels and shepherds and salvation come and wrapped up in all the ugly of humanity and the humility of a stable.
My peace cup will go in my china cupboard, next to other shiny white dishes with gold rims. And I hope it reminds me, every time I look at it, that peace isn’t about me, about my pretty things, about my expectations, even about silent nights. That into the brokenness of my outer peace, God pours the real thing, and it oozes out and touches everything it meets and makes it better.
Peace is Jesus. He doesn’t fit in my cupboard, but He fit Himself into human flesh, fits Himself daily into the details of my life, fit Himself onto the cross that brought peace– all for me.
All for you.