When my friend Kristine got her driver’s license, we all got a taste of freedom and excitement. She would pick up Julianne, then cruise up 9th east to pick up me, Maureen and Becca. Usually unannounced, always welcome. The excitement of three 15-year olds (and one 16-year old) cruising around the family-friendly town of Provo, Utah and going to the dollar theater was intoxicating. We would sing along with Jewel or Sarah McLachlan at the top of our lungs, do Chinese Fire Drills at the red lights and eat entire packs of Tricky Stix from Pizza Pipeline. (They made these amazing cinnamon covered bread sticks that you would dip in cream cheese frosting. . .). I loved it.
There weren’t boys or drugs or illegal activities, just kids out having fun. Those weekend nights oriented my entire life towards excitement. For the next twenty years I chased fun! Trips abroad, going away to school, meeting boys, roller coasters, a bungee jumping day, even my mission in Siberia was exciting and fun with district parties, restaurants and adventures on our day off. If there was a way to take excitement up a notch, I was on it.
As a young mom, (and now a middle-aged mom) we did zoo days, park days, people over for dinner several times a week, big parties, small parties, dance parties, art parties, movie nights, big bike rides, and lots of road trips. All in pursuit of that essential element of fun.
Then we moved to a tiny town in the middle of Wyoming, and the fun options changed: there is one movie in town (yes, one movie theater, and yes, one movie at a time). There is an ice cream shop. There is a McDonalds. So our fun options became physical activity–bike rides, swimming, playing in the river, hiking and sliding down a waterfall. Good clean fun.
As my fun-oriented life slowed down considerably, God showed me what else there was to seek after: I got a taste of true and satisfying peace. Without the options for distraction, when the sun goes down we hunker down at home. Several nights a week, we clean up our dinner dishes, light a fire in the fireplace and sit around the warmth of the flames listening to a book on tape, reading, doing art, or sewing. We all feel safe and comfortable. We are learning interesting things and surrounded by the people we love the most. The peace feeds my heart and soul. It makes me love my kids and husband more. Peace, it turns out, satisfies.
The peace often reaches a saturation point where I say to myself, “I am totally at peace. I feel peaceful. I have arrived.” Which is a sensation that I never got with excitement or fun. I never get to the point where I say, “I am excited! I am full of excitement. I have arrived.” (Maybe because it would culminate in an aneurysm?) Excitement builds and builds and then leaves me exhausted, but not often satisfied. The memories of the fun are fondly remembered, but they take a lot of effort to execute.
Now I am learning to save up my energy for the fun. It isn’t a daily pursuit anymore, it is a measured expense. Peace is my new daily pursuit; in my old age I have become peace-oriented. I love the imagery in Isaiah 48:18 that we can have peace like a river and righteousness as the waves of the sea. An endless stream of peace, continually replenishing and filling up the banks, like a river. Waves that keep coming, endlessly and without effort on our part. God’s enemies can imitate–in some fashion–many gifts of the Spirit, but peace is the gift over which God retains full ownership. There is no counterfeit. Our life can be filled with regenerating peace and righteousness that recharges our energy and gives us the power and confidence to face the world, if we just remember to look for it.