Sometimes, you find yourself enjoying one of the simple pleasures in life, or you come across something unexpectedly delightful, or you suddenly feel a deep sense of community with everyone in the world. These are the moments when everything feels right and it seems like everything is going to be okay. These are the moments that Anna and I call “signs of shalom.” Shalom is a Hebrew word that means peace, but more than what we commonly think of as peace, as simply the absence of conflict. Shalom means flourishing, well-being.
To me, these signs of shalom are little reminders in the midst of brokenness that God created a beautiful world that he will one day fully redeem, and it will be very good. Here are a few signs of shalom I’ve encountered over the years:
1) The Water Feature at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Since I went to college in Pennsylvania, I flew a lot in order to go back home to Minnesota, and in my pursuit of cheap flights I ended up having a lot of layovers in a lot of random airports. Most airports are nothing to write home about, so you can imagine my delight at coming across this beautiful fountain.
2) Watching the Olympics
I love, love, love the Olympics for a whole lot of reasons, but I think they are sign of shalom because for a few weeks, it’s something that most people pay attention to. It’s something that brings us together as we collectively cheer for people to accomplish amazing things. Also, Bob Costas is, hands down, the most comforting presence on TV, ever. I can’t watch him without feeling like everything is going to be okay. Because of this, I’ve thought for years that he should be president. (And given the candidates available this year, I think I could get a lot of people to join me on this.)
3) Chocolate Chip Cookies
I can get tired of just about any other cookie, but I’m always, always, always in the mood for good ol’ chocolate chip. They just never get old. They’re a constant source of comfort in this ever changing world in which we live in.
Is there a better feel-good event than a wedding? I love watching couples become a new family; something happens during the ceremony that is just incredible. And then there’s dancing and food and drinks all around! I think weddings in particular point to shalom because, at the end of it all, we’re going to be celebrating at the wedding supper of the Lamb. Weddings today are just a foretaste of the feast to come.
5) Snow Days
In the midst of a busy world with lots of responsibilities, snow days are a splash of grace. No, you don’t have to go to work today. Make yourself a cup of coffee and snuggle in your jammies. Or go sledding. Or whatever. Tomorrow can wait.
6) Sand Dunes/Lake Michigan
Have you ever run down a sand dune at top speed into a beautiful, crystal clear lake? If you haven’t, you should. It’s pure exhilaration and joy.
7) Holding Babies
There’s something about holding a baby that makes you remember all the good things in life. Maybe it’s because you’re holding a brand new life that is full of possibilities. Or maybe it’s just because they’re so stinkin’ cute and smell so nice. Either way, it’s great.
Talk about something that brings people together! It’s about home and hope and childhood memories and incarnational love. What could be better? This is why I get so cranky when finding the perfect gift, or just a gift, for tons of people becomes the all-consuming focus of Christmas. It just kills it. It shouldn’t be that stressful. By golly, it’s time to be jolly.
So if you’re feeling down, maybe you should make your own list of signs of shalom. You’ll probably feel at least a little bit better. If not, eat a few chocolate chip cookies.