My husband conveyed to his son that he was upset about the way someone had spoken to me. My husband’s son listened and then said, “Dad, don’t let it rob your peace.”
My husband already knew that in his head, and would have received that exhortation from anyone, I’m sure. But it came with particular power from his son, and here is why: In the two previous days, my husband had seen two demonstrations of his son’s living out his own counsel. One was when the son had learned by telephone from his wife that due to someone’s disrespect and carelessness their elaborate plans for their child’s birthday party were scuttled. His wife cried on the phone, and he sympathized, but he did not let it steal his peace.
The second occasion was when my husband’s son went into a store and stood in a long queue to buy cigarettes, and when he was finally waited on, he was turned down by the salesperson because his ID was dog-eared, never mind that all the information on the card was easily readable.
I realize that both of these are “First World problems,” as my children like to say, and that the young man would be better off not smoking to begin with. But our lives are 90 percent First World problems anyway, and many of us allow our peace to be ruffled by small things like these. The point is that the young man kept his peace in both situations—not a simmering, unvocalized wrath passing for peace, but a conscious and worshipful obedience to God’s command to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.”
When my husband told his son why his exhortation, “Dad, don’t let it rob your peace,” had come with such power, the young man elaborated on his own perspective. He said, “Bitterness is a poison you mix for someone else and drink yourself.” And that is the truth, that we stoke our heart fires of bitterness or unforgiveness to no one’s harm but our own.
But another truth to glean this story is that if you bring an exhortation to someone, it will be much more effectual if you have been living it yourself. And perhaps this is partly what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”