The e-mail message sobered me. It came from a Palestinian-American friend, letting us know that the conflict in the Middle East had claimed the life of his 15-year-old niece. Three Hizbullah missiles had hit her village, killing her and injuring a few others.
Despite the news, his commitment to peace was only strengthened. I was moved by the sadness in this man's tone and touched that I didn't detect any anger toward either Israeli forces or Hizbullah.
Recently, I thought again of this friend and how his life relates to my efforts for peace in my small community in the United States. As I pray for peace around the world, I've been getting a sense that my friend must understand a deep perspective of true peacemaking that many others of us only glimpse.
One thing my friend has taught me is that a government-level commitment to stopping killing is not all that is required to establish peace. While a cease-fire is clearly important, it's the hard work of rebuilding relationships after the cease-fire that prevents further conflicts from erupting.
Often peace agreements reached at national levels are disconnected from hearts and minds at the community level, and conflicts continue. As change occurs within individuals, peace is more likely to be sustainable on a broader level.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "Consolation and peace are based on the enlightened sense of God's government." She also wrote, "The government of divine Love derives its omnipotence from the love it creates in the heart of man; for love is allegiant, and there is no loyalty apart from love" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pp. 283 and 189). To me, understanding this sense of peace means having the calm trust and effortless love that children often exhibit.
Earlier this year when the war in the Middle East was escalating, a photo in this newspaper caught my eye. It pictured some children being evacuated from Beirut, wearing protective headgear, awaiting their departure by helicopter. Their faces were serious, but calm.
I thought a lot about this photograph and wished for these children to feel at peace despite being immersed in a destructive situation far beyond their control.
I began thinking about what this photo could teach me about my own self-government and desires for peace. Just as headgear is worn to block out the noise of the helicopter, being governed by divine Love sometimes means blocking out the noise of others' opinions and pressures so that wisdom, intelligence, and love may guide one's thoughts and actions.
Even with our best attempts, we can't avoid the unpredictable situations that arise in life. Learning from those trusting young faces, when we are confronted with a situation out of our control, we can practice the self- government that gives us the calm and resilience needed not to get swept up in the conflict.
The Bible states, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair" (II Cor. 4:7, 8).
The kind of peace I expect my Palestinian friend understands is one that acknowledges God, Spirit, as the impetus for stirring change within individual hearts. This approach is based neither in cynicism nor a Pollyannaish attitude. Grappling with the complexity of peacemaking means we may find ourselves perplexed, but we don't have to give in to despair.
I know that my friend continues to work and pray for lasting peace to come to his country. Whether you face similar challenges in your own country or whether peace is something you seek closer to home, may you feel the promise of God's excellency working to stir change in hearts and minds so that broken relationships may be renewed and a greater love come to all humanity.