So, this week I got a tattoo.
Yep. That is now a picture of my actual arm, with an actual permanent drawing on it.
Seriously. If you know me and think I’m way too much of a mega-geek for this to be real… I am actually not kidding, and I actually went through with it!
If you can’t read the Hebrew, I should tell you that it says shalom.
Which is a word that appears loads in the Bible and that we normally translate in English as the word peace.
But, shalom is so much more than peace. Peace is part of the meaning, but in our common understanding, it’s actually quite a small part.
I don’t even really think I can do the explanation justice, because I am no Hebrew scholar… But let’s give this a shot.
Shalom is more than simply a weak kind of fragile and fluffy peace. It is a complete peace. It is contentment, completeness, wholeness, well being and harmony.
All of those words wrapped up in one.
It comes from the Hebrew verb ‘shalam’ which literally means to restore, or to replace or provide what is needed in order to make someone or something whole and complete. To be made perfect and full.
It means soundness, tranquility, the absence of agitation or discord. Total health and total peace and safety and rest and fullness.
The related word ‘shelem’ means to pay for, and ‘shulam’ means to be fully paid.
It’s a pretty awesome and life changing principle to grasp when you read passages that talk about ‘peace’ with the meaning of shalom.
It’s really, completely and totally awesome when you think about it.
Because Jesus is the Prince of Peace. The Prince of Shalom.
He is the the One by whom all things were created and in whom all things hold together. He is the bringer of our wholeness, the reason we can receive healing, and the One who will one day bring the whole cosmos into harmony.
Shalom is transformational. And rooted in every way out of who God is. This God who has done everything to be close to us, and done everything to find a way that we can be reconciled to Him, to others and to our world. Fully.
Shalom changes everything.
Understanding the meaning of Shalom changed everything for me.
When I was in a really and completely broken place a few years ago… Shalom was one of the principles that Holy Spirit used to change me and heal me from the inside out. To bring complete transformation to me. It’s something I have taken with me since. Because Holy Spirit dwells in me.
So when God was putting me back together… These were the things that He taught me. Through His Word. Through others. Through His Presence.
And when I was thinking about how to mark that journey in a permanent way, well…
It’s my daily reminder that I am restored, whole and at peace. It’s my daily reminder to be thankful to Jesus for that reality.
The shalom of God is transformational, restorative and completely healing. And that gives me more hope for my future than I could ever say and a trust that He will always and completely satisfy my soul forever.
But it doesn’t end there.
And this is really important.
Where these reflections about shalom lead me to, is that it’s ever-so much bigger than me and my personal relationship with Jesus. It’s so much bigger than my personal healing and my personal journey. Because Jesus, as the Prince of Shalom, actually invites me to get caught up in His plan to bring Shalom to everything.
Because Shalom is about the nations and the world and the cosmos. It’s about the way things are meant to be. It’s about the Kingdom. It’s not about God just giving us enough of His Spirit to heal us personally and make us feel good. It’s about us joining with the redemptive challenge of Yahweh to see Holy Spirit change everything and invite us on a journey which is less about being comfortable and more about being ruined for anything less.
Because the humility of this Prince of Shalom, quite frankly, floors me.
He who gives us an inheritance that is unperishable, undefiled and unfading.
He who owed me nothing, but who abundantly gave me mercy.
He who made me for the praise of His glory. That my very being would testify to the remembrance of His mercy. A signpost to His restoration.
How can we not give everything in worship to the One who remains faithful when we are faithless?
How can we not be wrecked in response to the One who restores the thief on the cross and the harlot in the dust and lifts them to the heavenly places?
He overwhelms me. Always.
The Living Translation puts Isaiah 26 verse 3 into these words: ‘You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You’.
And in that single verse there is just so much. So much.
The keys of peace. To Shalom.
That when our minds are steadfast, and our thoughts and imaginations fixed on, rooted in, and stemming from God and who He is, we are kept in perfect Shalom.
In complete peace.
Contentment. Completeness. Well-being. Harmony.
The absence of agitation.
To be made whole.
To be a bridge that leads others into wholeness.
That as Jesus manifested Shalom to the broken and the poor and the destitute, so Holy Spirit in us, can outpour the Shalom-peace of Abba’s heart.
To restore. And heal. And raise from the ashes.
You know, (maybe you really know) I’m a total wimp.
I’m petrified of needles.
Some of my friends thought that I’d totally bail on having a tattoo as soon as I saw the tattooing equipment.
And I almost did.
I screamed out loud as soon as I heard the noise of the needle vibrating.
My friend Laura laughed so incredibly hard at me.
And getting a tattoo… Well, it hurts.
I mean, it didn’t hurt as badly as I thought it would… But still… I can’t say it was totally pain-free. I could bear it, but it hurt.
But, the beauty and the meaning of my tattoo was more than worth the pain.
It means so much to me that I would have actually gone through more pain in order to get the outcome.
I love it.
And in some ways, when I think about the place that God has brought me to personally, when I think about the work of Jesus in transforming out cities and communities or when I contemplate His will to restore all things to Himself… I know that pain of this present age, the brokenness of our current seasons and the fears that we often war against… The beauty of shalom is worth it. We can trust that He has this. We can trust He has this journey. We can trust that shalom isn’t shaken by changing circumstances because Jesus isn’t shaken by changing anything.
Joining with His plan is worth it.
And so in a rambling way, I guess what I want to say is that I am permanently marked with a truth that has changed my life and my heart and my vision.
And now I am permanently marked inside and outside.