My Peace I Give to You

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you."

John 14:23-29

May 20, 2022, Words By: Kate Davis, Image By: Blue Ox Studio

Made Flesh

It’s late in the Easter season. The Resurrected Christ has been walking with the disciples — including you and me — for some weeks; soon, he will ascend. Today, in the liturgical readings, he reassures us that when he leaves us, he will send the Spirit to guide, to advocate, to teach, and to remind us of his way, truth, and life.

Jesus prepares us for his departure with the same word that he announced his resurrection: Peace. Then, he came into the locked room in which the disciples hid in fear of their religious authorities, pulled aside his robes to reveal the crucifixion wounds, and said “Peace be with you!” Before any greeting, any celebration, even any gasp of surprise, Jesus leads with peace and wounds, together.

Perhaps he knows that peace — the peace of God, the peace that surpasses all understanding — is what will be needed to witness suffering and encounter woundedness. Christ knows that a sense of peace that passes all understanding is exactly what we need to confront his wounds, which in turn means recognizing the corruption of their religious leaders and use of the religious and state systems for violent oppression.

I used to think that the human baseline is peace — that peace, calm, and quiet was the natural state of a body, and that concerning events and rapidly changing contexts (and, okay, the always-coming Sunday sermon and that missed blog deadline) add on stress. I thought that we were naturally at peace and became stressed. When I started researching resilience for Resilient Leaders Project, I learned that the opposite is more often true: our bodies are most often in a state of stress and alertness, and we must actively work to soothe them into a state of peace.

Peace is not an absence of stress. It’s the active presence of safety.

So when Jesus greets us with blessings of peace, when he promises to gift us his peace, he is speaking to our stressed-out bodies — bodies that are hyper-vigilant from trauma, bodies that carry the terrorism of generations, bodies that are frightened of oppressive systems and controlling institutions, bodies that have been overlooked, marginalized, wounded, and exploited. He looks at our stressed-out bodies and says, “My peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

This is how we actually do get our bodies to peace — we embody community. Psychologists call it co-regulation — the regulation, or soothing, of our emotional state by being in present, embodied relationship with another who is also safe and soothing. We soothe one another. We receive peace from others — and share it with others, too.

When our hearts are troubled, the hearts of those around us are likely to pick up on our stress and mirror our vigilance. And when our bodies are at peace, we give that peace to the bodies around us.

There has been a lot of conversation in the last couple of years about collective trauma. Yes, we go through trauma together, and mirror one another’s stress, and will change our cultural behaviors, beliefs, and worldviews as a result — this is collective trauma. But it’s also true that we can be collective peace-makers, that we can turn to one another to calm our troubled hearts, soothe anxious breath, transform the ways we engage, and create peace in our communities.

Peace-making is a community project. And we have a good start: the one who carries the marks of personal and systemic trauma, and yet ushered in a new reality by defying death — the Risen One has gifted us with the peace he carries in his body.

May the peace of Christ be always with you — and be freely shared in your community.

Dwelling Among Us

Can you think of any rhythms or practices in your life or someone else’s that help your mind and body to remember the peace Christ has given you? How might you be a conduit or “coregulator” of peace in your relationships and community?

About The Author

Kate Davis