by Noel Bouché
In sci-fi classic, The Matrix, intelligent machines have taken over and enslave humanity by locking them in a simulated, pleasurable reality to distract them while harvesting energy from their trapped, warehoused bodies. While a small community of people resists the tyranny by escaping the comforts of the computer program and embracing the bleak, comfortless, but hopeful life of resistance, a return to the matrix and its instant pleasure is a constant temptation.
When finally one person agrees to betray his compatriots in exchange for a simulated life of comfort and pleasure, he does so over a gourmet meal provided by his malicious recruiters, and while smelling the steak and wine he knows are only a computer program, he sighs, “Ignorance is bliss,” and demands in exchange for his capitulation to hedonism and treason, “I don’t want to remember nothing… nothing, understand!?”
Too often our seeking mirrors this betrayal.
In Episode 17 of A World Free: The pureHOPE Podcast, we explored what it means to “seek,” and we found that at the root of the word—and at the heart of the action—is a “searching out by scent”; put another way, the act of seeking is more like a dog smelling a blade of grass than an eagle soaring overhead peering at the horizon. Seeking requires a presentness, an attachment to our environment, an understanding of our relationships, of what has happened and what is happening around us, no matter how much easier it would seem to simply fly away to the ignorant bliss of detached floating.
This is especially true in the search for peace in our lives.
Peace—shalom in Hebrew—is not the absence of external tension and conflict; it is a state of completeness, of wholeness, and from that a contentedness that is internal but that flows into our external surroundings and relationships through our presence, our words and actions. We are all seeking this peace, because we are all in a struggle with the fragmented, bruised, hungry reality of our lives hoisted upon us by mortality’s sin and brokenness.
The easiest and most comfortable pathways toward satiation of that longing are offered to us every day in the form of shortcuts and simulations packaged as solutions. But in reality these are short-term escapes that tyrannically subjugate us for the long term. We are tempted to hide as the response to fear. To control others as the response to uncertainty. To belittle as the response to insecurity. To use others sexually, financially, reputationally as the response to unfulfillment, disillusionment, and shame.
But when we seek the One Who is our Peace, we will experience the wholeness and contentedness our heart is longing for.
How do we seek, how do we pursue this on a daily basis in the midst of the struggle of daily existence? By leading a pure life—not one of spiritual striving or ethical achieving, but of resting in a new rhythm of prayer, understanding, resolve, and engagement:
PRAYER: Cultivate closeness with the One Who purifies us. Spend time with the Creator Who knows you. Communion with the Redeemer Who tends to you. Speak aloud your heart to Him. Share openly your wants and fears with Him. Listen to His in response. Search for His purpose, His provision, in your circumstances right now. Remembering that love is spelled T-I-M-E, in this relationship as in others.
UNDERSTANDING: Trust that God is with you (Matthew 28:20). Believe that He is guiding you (Isaiah 30:21). Hold onto the promise that in seeking Him, everything you need will be provided in its season (Matthew 6:33). Rest your mind and set your heart on these promises (Philippians 4:6-7).
RESOLVE: Diligently choose to be present. Determine to take each day as it comes, looking for the opportunity to share, to open up, to speak life into the lives around you. Fix your hope on the provision of the Lord, rather than trying to fix the situation yourself. Keenly look for His provision with attentiveness, resting from your impulse to take matters into your own hands.
ENGAGE: Pursue the relationships in your life with patience, sincerity, and affection. Resist the urge to control and “fix” the ones you love. Reflect the Savior, the One you are being conformed to, Who stands at the door and knocks, persistently present but never indignantly insistent (Revelation 3:20). Listen and attend to what, and who, is before you.
In this rhythm of being and connecting, we begin to perceive—and learn to receive—the shalom, the completeness of God. Not a simulation, but a salvation that is, and is yet to come. A peace that is eternal.
A peace that will set a world free.