Mon 12 Oct
This past July I crossed the Atlantic Ocean for a close up look at the work of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. As a follower of Jesus, pursuing peace is an important part of my faith and I wanted a chance to promote peace in a practical way. Going to Northern Ireland, I harboured a secret hope for dramatic confrontations, persuasive arguments, and eloquent debates; work replete with glamour, risk, tension, and dare I say, even danger.
Instead, much to my surprise, I discovered it was all rather ordinary. Regular people doing every day things in an unremarkable town. These ordinary people, staff of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), welcomed me into their community, or rather enveloped me, and presented me with countless ordinary opportunities to practice peace.
My time in Northern Ireland gave me the opportunity to:
- Offer a silent prayer of gratitude instead of complain as I put whole milk on my cereal in place of skim, and whole milk in my coffee in place of cream.
- Bite my tongue and allow a teenager to instruct me (a 46-year-old mother of four) on the only proper way to clean a toilet.
- Choose my words deliberately. I learned to say that cars drive on the “other” side of the road, not the “wrong” side.
- Ask about the stories behind one missionary’s tattoos with genuine interest instead of judgment.
- Listen while peeling potatoes. Listen while washing dishes. Listen while praying.
- Breathe deep and risk vulnerability by telling my truth instead of creating a mask.
- Allow unexpected tears to mingle with rain on my face while standing in front of a peace wall in Belfast. Although rain is to be expected in Northern Ireland, segregation should not.
- Fly home across the Atlantic and invite God to search my heart and show me where I put up walls between myself and others. This is the hardest part.
Proceed to tear down walls, bit by bit. Bite my tongue. Select my words carefully. Ask with interest. Listen with great care. Risk vulnerability. Honour others. Embrace differences. Cry freely. Choose not to remember when forgetting is impossible. Stop to pray.
Working for peace is full of ordinary moments. But genuine peace is glorious. Ephesians 2:14 says “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”.
Because of the cross, we are reconciled to God, and also to one another. Our every day, ordinary acts reflect a glorious truth.
Anna Heidebrecht-Hogg is a follower of Jesus currently worshiping at The Meeting House Downtown Toronto.