Some Thoughts About Peace

from Chaplain (Colonel-Retired) Steven L. Berry
Advisory Board, Hardrock Charlie Foundation

In the quiet wake of the still reflection often offered by and associated with a period of Thanksgiving comes the commercialized, consumer-fed frenzy of Black Friday. To me, these stand in sharp contrast to one another, producing a certain persistent tension as I look, with eager anticipation, toward the Christmas season with its overarching message of hope; that is, “peace on earth, good will toward men.” To be frank, neither Black Friday, nor the Cyber Monday that closely follows it, bring to my mind peaceful images. Perhaps chaos and turmoil, but not peace.

Peace in our world is elusive, to be sure. On every hand, it seems to escape our best efforts to secure it, whether for ourselves or for others. It cannot be captured and held in our hands, though we strive for it, even with our life’s blood. We often describe the state of peace as the absence of or the freedom from certain conditions. Where there is no fighting, we may say that peace exists. In the absence of violence, social disturbance, conflict, or struggle, we may declare that a time of peace has come. Perhaps nations may agree to the cessation of hostile activities between themselves, thereby claiming to have achieved a state of peace.

But, albeit sincere, our work to describe peace in terms of being only the absence of something seems to fall short of its goal. Surely, peace can be described by conditions that accompany its presence and by which we can recognize and experience it. We might consider calm, harmony, and security as being characteristics of the presence of peace. Maybe words like assurance, well-being, or tranquility are helpful in developing an understanding of peace. We may consider restoration, wholeness, and completeness as possibly describing, in a positive way, what attends peace.

In the Hebrew scriptures, the prophet Isaiah declared that the day will come when the nations will cease from hostilities; a future day when they will “beat their swords into plowshares” and when they will “study war no more.” I confess that I long for that day; that day when the ravages of war and strife will be no more, when wastage and destruction will become distant memories, when the souls of good men and women are no longer tormented, but are whole, restored, and complete. Then, we will know peace.

Across the last two decades, however, our shared experiences, seem to render this lofty language, while lovely and inviting, as moot and ineffective; perhaps, merely a noble dream, at best. Surely, this understanding seems to point to something that we may not be able to achieve on our own. For the time being, it seems that we are left with only “wars and rumors of wars.”

It is interesting to me how, in our physical world, the landscape retains a marvelous capacity to heal and to restore itself from the consequences of war and struggle. For example, the ground at Antietam Creek gives witness to this idea, I think. It is possible to still see evidence of a battle fought on that ground on 17 September 1862; over 159 years ago. You can still stand in the Sunken Road (“The Bloody Lane”) and in the rifle pits at Burnside’s Bridge. However, the carnage of that terrible day, a day which still stands as the deadliest day in American history, cannot be viewed on this day. The rains have fallen, grass has grown, and the flowers have bloomed, and, in so doing, they have restored ground, that was once bitterly contested, to a state of pastoral peace.

In the human heart and soul, however, healing and wholeness do not often come in such a way. Even the passage of time, may not heal these inner wounds. Fear, guilt, strife, and turmoil may remain daily as dangerous companions to those with broken hearts and troubled spirits. For those who are wounded in spirit, peace may seem to be hidden and unattainable. To the contrary, even in the vicious storms of life, it is, indeed, possible for us to know peace and wholeness and to experience it in daily living.  Yet, you may not be able to achieve it on your own. You may need some help; some reinforcements, if you please. With this in full view, your Ranger family is ready with a “hand up” for you. Many of us have fallen into the same hole where you may now find yourself. We have been there before, and we know the way out. We, as Brothers together, remain committed to “never leave a fallen comrade.” Don’t struggle for another day on your own. Reach out now. Your reward for doing so may be exactly the peace that you seek…RLTW