Praying for Peace

I used to pray for peace. I used to pray for peace as some ideal that should be in the world without really knowing what to do with the violence that I saw on the news or even in the place I lived. I used to pray for peace like it were possible. Now, I pray for peace like it’s something I need. It’s not just something that might be possible, but it better happen tomorrow.

Nine months ago, I started dating a man in the army. I didn’t know this before we met. We had both hidden the truth from each other. We had met online and engaged in witty banter without ever asking that persistent question that single young clergy women hate so much, “So what do you do?” It turns out that young clergy women really aren’t the only ones. (It’s not just a fantastic tagline after all.) This man in the military had experienced the same sweeping assumptions that I knew so well. We had both avoided the question only to discover the truth: he’s an atheist and I’m a pacifist. You might think that this is a problem since I’m a pastor and he’s an army captain, but it works. It’s delightful and startling and I really want peace.

Because I don’t want him to go to war. Peace isn’t something I just pray about as some distant reality anymore. It’s real. It’s connected to this man who I can wrap my arms around and hold tightly. And I don’t want to let go even though I know very well that this is what he does. This is what he is trained to do. This is what he believes he can do to make peace in the world. I’ve listened carefully to the stories he tells about his service. He is full of hope. Sometimes he has more hope than I do. I really want to believe that the conflict that may or may not come in Syria will bring peace. I want to believe him when he says these things. I want to believe it’s possible. Because I can see that faith in his eyes, but I am still a pacifist. I don’t understand how dropping bombs or sending troops or engaging in any kind of conflict will bring about that peace that I have prayed for for so many years. I choose the side of one of nonviolence in the just war debate. I always have. Except that now that commitment has a face. It has a hand that I can hold. It has lips that I might kiss.

I care about this man so much that I’m now wondering what it might be like to wait for him while he deploys — which he will, even if it is not to Syria. And I pray so much that it is not in Syria but I can’t seem to find the rationale words to explain why. Tears stream down my face as I read the news, but I don’t have talking points. I can’t find the words to say why this war scares me so much. But, there’s this fact that I cannot shake: I care about this man. My tears are for him. And it’s selfish. It’s so, so selfish but I don’t want him to go to war. I don’t want anyone to go to war but I really don’t want him to go to war. I want peace now.

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