Sure, you can go straight ahead & light the Peace candle, but it can end up being mighty hard some days to scrounge up much peace when you’re a liar, a thief, a cheat. When you’ve wrecked holy things of home and hearts, crushed your priceless people with expectations, been a hypocrite in more than a thousand wincing ways.
Ask me how I know.
It’d be kinda pious, if that was all humbly self-deprecating — instead of devastatingly honest. How many times have I dry wretched, but you can’t hurl yourself out of your wretched self?
I just happen to open it to this unexpected excerpt from the Scarlet Letter, with the shame-ridden Reverend Dimmesdale stumbling through the night streets to climb the town’s public scaffold — the Puritans’ own rendition of Calvary. The tortured, self-loathing pastor’s desperate to somehow publicly pay his pound of flesh for all that relentlessly haunts.
He’s wild for his own scarlet letter — and yet can’t bear the shame.
I close the book, lay it on the bedroom windowsill.
Who isn’t haunted by all kinds of inner thoughts — that you don’t want anyone to know? Who isn’t undone by all kinds of failures — that you’d never want on display?
I watch the snow soundlessly fall, burying the fields, the woods, in white.
Hiding anything is an illusion — because can anything hide from God?
And maybe that’s the moment I start to dig out, start to find myself:
The pieces of us that we try to keep burying — is what keeps burying our peace.
When we hide pieces of ourselves — we never find peace.
I can feel gusts of December cold air leaking in around the edges of the window. I wonder if: What drives some of our anxiousness — is anxiousness to not be found out for all of who we are. Maybe if we were really known — we don’t know if anyone would really love us?
The glass pane feels frigid under my fingertips.
Maybe: There are things in our minds and hearts that we never want fully found out — because we’re terrified we’d find out that no one fully loves us.
When I see snow whipping around in the orchard, you can hear it at the same moment, the house, the back windows, crying a bit with this driving wind.
Maybe: Our ache to be taken and accepted as we are — is what drives us to take and hide parts of ourselves we believe are unacceptable.
A blast of wind blows a skiff of snow off the back step.
Maybe the secret to peace — is to have no secrets.
I press my forehead against the clear glass. And maybe — there is no maybe, no question at all:
God fully knows what you never want anyone to know — and He needs you to know, even now, that you are His Beloved.
What had my brother-in-law messaged last week?
“Hey — just following up on our conversation at church….” We’d all lingered long afterward the last prayer, kinda oblivious to the cold.
Stood there talking about how we are all called to carry each other’s brokenness — but we can’t do that if we’re all wearing masks of fake holiness.
“What if we really knew: There is nothing that has been said, done, or thought is so big that it requires it be paid for twice….He paid for it all….all the known and not known.”
That’s when his words started to swim a bit in a brimming grace. Yes:
If Christ didn’t pay for all the unspeakable things, the shameful things, the things only He knows — then our salvation isn’t the real thing.
If Christ doesn’t take all of us, in all of our judgement — then our salvation would actually be fraudulent.
What if — the judgement, the abandonment, the rejection you are anxious about in ways you try to ignore — doesn’t even exist.
What if — the peace you long for is yours right now because no matter what happens, ever — you always, miraculously, get to belong?
What if there is no maybe about it, ever:
“Therefore is now no condemnation… “Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you…” Romans 8 MSG.
A gust blows snow off the edge of the eave, like burdens can lift.
As I turn from the window, I just happen to glance down at my wrist — and it jolts me.
There it is.
I’m wearing my own scarlet letter.
There, a small cross.
First inked on my wrist on a late summer afternoon, not far from the actual Calvary, on a hushed back street of Jerusalem itself.
Permanently inked by a man who introduced himself as Wassim Razzouk, whose family has been serving Christian pilgrims since the 1300s — more than 26 generations inking proof for pilgrims of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. To the Cross.
I’d sat in front of Wassim in that stillness of a stone-walled Jerusalem shop and traced how small I wanted that cross, that one symbol, right there on my wrist, and he’d drawn it slow and I’d nodded.
And there it is, etched right into me, my own Scarlet Letter, unashamedly right there under my fingertips, what pays the price for everything — and gives the greatest gift of peace through everything. A Cross that patently proclaims my brokenness — and yet piercingly renames me Beloved.
And that one Scarlet Letter?
That one Scarlet Letter Cross is
my peace —
That Scarlet Letter Cross — is my alpha and omega, my beginning and my end, my everything. Like learning that one letter by heart could transform my heart, I find myself tracing and retracing that Cross countless times a day, right there like peace speaking under fingertips.
Whatever love, provision, hope, acceptance, grace, restoration you need — will not run out — because Your God will never run out on you.
Whatever you fear doesn’t exist — because your God exists.
Whatever you can’t stand about yourself — Jesus stands closest to kiss that place with grace, and you can feel it come over you — that peace that passes all understanding.
There is a peace that passes all understanding because there is One who stands in your painful places — and takes that pain.
God with us.
The Peace candle burns with a red hot love that brands even us as His — and all that doesn’t matter burns away.
Read the Full Love Story of Christmas and know the Greatest Gift:
Jesus comes from the kind of family tree —
that proves He comes for your kind of family tree.
For the hurting & busted & messed up, Jesus comes to whisper:
“PEACE. I am with you & I am ALL YOUR PEACE.”
This Advent, Stay in the Story that the rest of your year, your family, will need.
3 Award-Winning books for the Whole Family
The Greatest Gift (adult edition): Best Devotional of the Year, ECPA, 2014
Unwrapping the Greatest Gift (Family Edition): Best Inspirational Book of the Year, CBA, 2016
The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: Best Devotional & Gift Book of the Year, CBA, 2019
When our holidays are about Staying in the Story, being with Him —
Peace leads us — and we have ourselves The Greatest little Christmas yet!