Making Peace


Here is an excerpt from Mary: When God Shares His Glory soon to be on the market in November.


Making Peace

Pablo Picasso once said the first act of creation is an act of destruction.  Although I may not agree on how Picasso applied this statement, I do agree with the “nugget of truth” it contains.  An artist or creative person always sees what’s missing or broken in a situation and then begins the work of repair and restoration.  Because of the innate ability to see what is wrong with something, creative people often tend to be unpopular—especially with those who are invested in keeping things the way they are—the status quo.

Creative people see what’s broken or missing.

This is one of the reasons creative people are often described as being overly critical or having an “artistic temperament.”

The Hebrew word we translate “peace” is the word shalom.  A very basic definition of this word is “nothing broken, nothing missing.”  Peace is the presence of order, not an absence of conflict.  Let me say that again:

Peace is the presence of order not the absence of conflict.

If a creative person sees what’s broken or missing, then they are called to create Shalom.  Creative people are designed to repair and restore what is broken and missing in the world.   Making shalom is the greatest creative act.  Ultimately, all creative people are called to be peacemakers.

When we hear Jesus say in the Beatitudes “Blessed are the peacemakers,” we have been trained to hear “blessed are the peacekeepers.”  Making Shalom is a risky act that requires incredible creativity.  When you make peace you are attempting to find a way forward where there has not been one before—because the path has been broken or missing.   Often conflicts arise when relationships are broken or the truth is hidden or distorted.

Peacekeeping is not a creative act.  Peacekeeping forces people to accept broken systems or situations.  Peacekeeping forces everyone involved to give up something for the greater good.  Peacekeeping requires you to make do with a broken system “because this is the way things are.”  Peacekeeping makes you a victim.  At the heart of peacekeeping is compromise—each side has to give up something to keep bullets from flying.  The systems peacekeepers create are marked by their unsatisfactory lukewarm cultures.  Peacekeeping demands accepting things as they always have been.  Peacekeeping never calls into question the status quo.  Peacekeeping is a temporary fix.  Sadly, eventually people get tired of surrendering their values and dreams and the guns get loaded and the bullets fly.

Peacemaking, on the other hand, begins with “this is what’s broken or missing.”  Peacemaking requires an honest assessment.  Then peacemakers, creative people, begin the difficult task of finding a new way forward.  Being honest is unpopular.  This is when those who have “never done it that way before” begin to attack the creative person.  These good people represent the Status Quo.  In the eyes of the Status Quo the enemy is not the problem.  The enemy is the problem solver.  The enemy is the person brave enough to assess a situation and suggest a solution.  Shalom always requires us to make a change.  We have to change our thinking, change our choices, and change the way we do things.   As Seth Godin said in one of his recent daily blogs, “Change begins when you imagine a different kind of future.”  That’s pretty close to what the Bible calls “repentance.”

The Ability to See

One of the important lessons I learned as an applied artist was the ability to see.  A good draftsman can look at an object and break it down into its component shapes and “see” what is really there.  Drawing is not creating a bunch of lines.  Drawing is laying down boundaries around shapes and shadows.

Repeatedly creative artists are called “prophetic” individuals.  They tend to run ahead of the crowd and forge a way forward.  I think it is interesting that the original word for prophet in Hebrew was “seer.”  The prophet is the one who sees.

A good artist immediately sees what’s wrong.  This is why many creative people are so grumpy—and why so many suffer from depression.

Without the freedom to acknowledge a problem and find a solution an artist will get stuck in the destruction phase, and that destruction will turn inward.  First, it becomes depression and then worse.

Being an artist has taught me another thing: Many people can look at something all day long and not see what is really there.  The conventional crowd is often blind, and can be deceived.  This is the realm of the illusionist, magician, and the modern politician.   People look at things based on their preconceptions, and this weakness can be used and abused.   This blindness is part of what drives peacekeeping.   To a person without the ability to see it is much safer to live with the way things are.

All people have a God-given desire to make things better, but most believe that they are powerless to do so.  In order to get along people try to keep peace and not make waves.  Making peace requires the ability to see and the courage to make change.

When we make peace, find a way forward, and come up with a creative solution, we suddenly find that God has been doing a work of healing and transformation in our lives.

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