Thursday, June 06, 2013

Peaceable (the calm) and Peacemaker (the unpredictable)

Over the past few months, we’ve enjoyed having an older man staying with us in community. He moved in after his elderly father (who he’d been caring for) died – partly for respite, partly out of necessity, and mainly because as a Christian he felt it was a good place to be while he considered what to do next. He moved on last week – off to live with some Mennonites in Shropshire – but we know he’ll keep in touch as he’s become like a family member to us.

We have an informal custom in our church and community of giving people nicknames based on a virtue or quality we see in them. We’d called him “Peaceable”, not only because of his Anabaptist-inspired pacifism, but also because he had a quiet, calming presence about him. We received a lot from him while he stayed with us.

One day, over dinner, “Peaceable” told a something he’d learned that day about being a peacemaker – learned, ironically, from another man who sometimes comes to our church, who struggles with anger and psychiatric issues that can make him unpredictable, even dangerous at times. Here’s what he told us, in his own words:
I was walking through town, not far from my destination, when a voice behind me called my name. There was “B” who I had not seen for months. He is what used to be called a “rough diamond” (bare knuckle rough at times). I was telling him that I was living with the Jesus Army now since my father’s death had changed my life.

White van driverBut we didn’t get far with the conversation because a situation was developing behind us. Two vans had nearly collided on the side of the street. The first driver got out of his van and was swearing at the other driver. He was angry and showed no signs of calming down. The other driver took it at first, but after the third spate of swearing was about to get out of the van.

I was looking on and considering what to do and was getting round to a prayer, when all of a sudden “B” shot over to the second driver and said, “Stay in your van, mate”, then said to the first driver, “There are babies in there”, indicating the house he had just come from. (By now, I felt a bit like one of the “babies”.) Then “B” told the first driver to drive on, whilst calmly but firmly pointing out to the other driver, “Those are hazard lights” – which were still flashing on the first driver’s van. He got back in his van and all went quiet. The demon road rage fled before the Spirit of the Lord!

Reflecting on this, various thoughts arise. Firstly, we can learn from anyone: here is “Peaceable” learning peacemaking from volatile “B”. Secondly, we’re all different – strengths and weaknesses – but together can make a difference. And thirdly, I miss my “Peaceable” friend with his quiet stories and calming presence.

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