Swords into Plowshares. When Teresa sent out the email requesting volunteers to share blog posts, that title stuck out at me first from the list of weekly topics. "ME! I pick that one!" I responded, because that phrase appealed to me on many different levels. Plus, it should be an EASY* concept to write about, right? I already knew EXACTLY* what it meant. (*capitals have been added for emphasis and sarcasm.)
One of my favorite things about the teaching at Grace has been the tendency to challenge preconceived notions and weigh them against God's character and scripture itself. I've heard the same thing said by others during the teaching team meetings as well, and I'd hope that if you've stuck it out with Grace for any period of time, it also resonates with you. And this passage, as I mulled it over and read the text to try and put the concepts into words that were trying to form themselves into shareable thoughts from the swirling soup bowl of abstract that's generally taking up space in my mind, is no different.
This phrase, the swords into plowshares, immediately attaches itself to a picture of heaven in my mind. That's the way I've pictured it, and I've never questioned that idea. It invokes peace, in the 'lion lies down with the lamb' sort of way. It's streets of gold and never-ending praise, and way far off in the future. Right?
Except. Plowshares, and the work that goes into tilling the land to produce its fruit, are a part of Adam's
curse. Sin enters the world, and suddenly provision becomes work, now that humanity lives apart from God's perfect plan for his world and creation. That's not heaven, that's Post-Fall-Pre-2nd-Coming Earth. It's here. And the whole idea takes on a much more current execution when you frame it in the 'right now' rather than the 'someday.’
It's a picture of a unified people laying down their defenses in exchange for God's protection, and using that protection to use their resources to bless its people and the surrounding nations as well. The tools of war have become tools of provision instead, of doing the work required to use its resources to benefit others, instead of war against them. Men who once wielded swords to cut others down in battle are now 'boots on the ground' in their own fields, putting in the sweat, effort, and energy to create provision and plenty for their families and neighbors. And this idea of peace, while already sweet to the civilian, has to be an anointing of comfort to the former battle-scarred casualties of war, whether soldier, immediate family, or bystander. It it still work, and can be difficult and exhausting, but the trade-off is immense.
So what does that look like in practice? I don't have a specific to-do list that can be followed with check marks, but I do have some small (and admittedly abstract) ways that have shown up in my own life as I pursue this idea of using my own resources to make peace in the day to day:
- Choosing to shop at shops like Beautiful Lives Boutique whenever possible, in order to use my income to bless the local and global community they minister to, instead of shopping 'just because' and handing my income over to a faceless corporation.
- Texting a friend out of the blue to offer encouragement, and choosing to ignore the inner battle of social anxiety and the "what if they think I'm weird maybe they don't want to talk I hope they take this as an encouragement," spiral of worry that can come with moving out of a comfort zone.
- Laying down the urge to hover over my children, in an effort to protect them from some of the traumas I've survived, and instead using that energy to pray God's protection over them and trust that He's got them.
And I'd challenge you to do the same. Where can you lay down your defenses in exchange for blessing others? Once again, it's not an easy cut and dry list, but the opportunities are there, and that's what "thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven," can look like for all of us. And it'll be beautiful, I'm sure.
Grace Holt is a thirty-something full-time working mommy of three, who happens to have a love for fashion and uses any excuse to wear something shiny. She is loved by an amazing God and an amazing man, and blogs about faith and fashion over at livingwithaholts.blogspot.com.