The farmhouse we live in doesn’t have air conditioning. In Western Washington there are only a few weeks a year we need it anyway. During the hot weeks we keep the lights off and open windows and doors because the breeze keeps us sane. We pull out fans. I allow popsicles all day. We are productive in the early hours so in the hot afternoon hours we can race to the river to cool down and play.
This year as the summer brings warm weather, the temperature in our world (figuratively) gets cranked up with it. I think of the strategies we intentionally implement to keep things cooler and bearable in our home when summer heat presses in. We can’t ignore the heat but we can be proactive about how we handle it.
You can’t get on social media, can’t go to Costco, can’t have a conversation with your neighbor across the fence without picking up on the fear, the anger, the defensiveness, the instability. It’s loud and it’s getting hot.
My instinct is to over-talk, read and research, find my position and then take to it heartily and vocally. We aren’t lacking things to have an opinion about. It takes about 5 minutes for the heat out there to seep into my mind and heart. Soon my heart is racing and anxiety creates a tight ball somewhere between by throat and my gut. My mind moves quickly over various topics to be worried or mad about. “You think it’s hot out there!? Watch me crank up the heat in here!”
It takes about 5 more minutes for it to catch in my home. My discouragement spreads like wildfire to my children. My angry tone reverberates from our dinner table to our living room and into the bedrooms. The fear of the future grabs even the youngest because I can model fear expertly and she can follow suit easily. Just like that we’re all sweating, suffocating, isolated.
I can’t ignore the heat. But I can choose the way I handle it in my home.
My nose has been in 1 Peter for a month now. 5 short chapters but I can’t stop pulling out applicable pieces that instruct me in keeping a cool, peace-infused home and life. 1 Peter is like that popsicle on a hot afternoon–my cool, soothing treat in a hot, bitter time.
Peter talks about being sober-minded, self-controlled, de-escalating by using gentleness and respect. In fact, he admonishes me to use gentleness and respect when (not if, but when) I am slandered. What a novel idea–using respect and gentleness even when I’m not treated with the same.
Peter also gives me direction. Thank God! In the midst of school decisions, people getting sick, my husband’s job changing every week and the instability of the year to come…I have direction!
“Be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sin. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:7-9
This is Peter’s solution for suffering.
We’d like to have a pity party about the hard things, but as a family we’ve been intentionally talking about how we can love people. As we’ve talked and prayed, God has opened our eyes to the hurt around us. He’s opened up conversations and time with people who are desperate. We don’t want to preach at it. We want to soak it in love.
Loving social distance style takes creativity. We’ve assembled baskets for families, we’ve prayed for people over face time (awkward initially…less so the more we do it), we started a tradition of Sunday donuts from across the lawn with my father-in-law at his assisted living facility.
We are learning that loving God and loving people is the lens with which we should approach everything. Without that lens we get wrapped up in “issues”; forgetting that we are dealing with humans made in the image of God. When we are focused on loving God and loving people, we are able to engage in elections, racial issues, mask discussions with gentleness, respect, and relationship. They become a healthy conversation instead of a hill to die on. Curiously, the more we love people the less time we have to get our panties in a knot over the rest.
Our family is witnessing miracles. We’re seeing hope returned. We’re seeing God provide when people we love have lost jobs. We’re seeing our kids develop empathy and enjoy serving. We think less about persuading people or impressing them and more about showing a little piece of the grace and unconditional love we’ve experienced from Jesus. My prayer is that our own hearts can be softened and less self-involved through this process.
“Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it,” 1 Peter 3:11.
Peter is a man of action! Once again he gives direction. Don’t just stop doing evil–replace it! Pursue peace. This type of peace is a “sense of settle” when circumstances are unsettled. Peace because I know the end of the story. My hope eternally and for my salvation makes it possible to live in tumultuous seasons with peace… the cool in the heat.
The Greek word Peter uses for "pursue" means “do with intense effort and with definite purpose”. I can’t be passive. I can’t get sucked in by lesser endeavors; this is an intentional undertaking.
I can’t bring freedom and peace into my home without Jesus. I can modify behavior for a time, but it doesn’t produce the peace I need. Learning about being pro-active from Peter has caused me to implement ways to bring cool in the heat:
I am sneaking to the river in early morning to highlight 1 Peter and wrestle through worry and wrong beliefs that don’t die easily. I’m having worship time, praying with a faithful group of women, and not shying away from hard conversations with my kids about faith and the world. I read news and check social media, but I can't saturate in it. I savor Scripture–hooray for one thing unchanging! We discuss world events at dinner but we also spend time thanking God for specific blessings before bed. Every time that ball of panic threatens to settle between my throat and gut, I ask God, “What do you want to tell me about this? What worry do I need to confess and what truth do you want to fill it with?” Sometimes that conversation lasts later into the night than I’d prefer.
Some days our home is filled with peace; a refuge from the heat outside. Some days it heats up and I step back to get my footing. We find things to enjoy. We step outside of ourselves. We pursue peace.
Like most things in my life, I’m not magically achieving mastery. I’m on a journey of decreasing my own agenda, increasing my dependence on the Lord, and alternating between enjoying and resisting the process. Fortunately, my life is never about my faithfulness. It is always about God’s faithfulness.
“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3
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