Pete and I started dating during college. He was an only child in a wealthy family who picked me up in his t-top Thunderbird, took me out to eat, and bought me roses. I was enchanted. The most significant gift he bought me was a dainty golden ring with a small diamond. It was called a promise ring, I guess because that little diamond was to be the precursor to a larger, more significant ring and promise later. Unable to offer a lavish gift in return, I cross-stitched for Pete a long-stemmed rose with a phrase from his favorite band’s song, “roses never fade.”
Well, the roses did fade, to my parents’ great relief, and that ring of promise never grew to a larger diamond, at least not from Pete. We learn in life that not all promises are kept. Promises of a future together blossom and then fade. Promises from a college that your education will lead to a well paying job languish as the job search continues for months or years. Promises that someone will take care of us are betrayed and we are so horrified that we pitch our tents in the Field of Promises Broken, where the grass is dry and brown, and crackles beneath our steps. We raise our heads slowly each day, hoping to peek out and see something green: some sign of life and hope, but without it, we just slip back inside our tents and sigh again.
Luke 3 tells of a man named John, who traveled around “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
Once the land is flat—no hills or valleys, no potholes or jolts when you drive from pavement onto the bridge—then the “the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).
Are we all seeking the way of peace? What would it take for you to find peace? Some think it would take a million dollars: pay off a house and other debts and then everything would be fine. Some think telling their long-repressed secrets would provide them with peace. Some think finding their soul mates would provide lasting inner peace. What would be different if we wanted peace on God’s terms?
Two years ago, people from a dozen Roanoke congregations gathered for a seminar called “City of Peace.” The theme verse was from the Prophet Jeremiah, “Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you” (29:7). Rabbi Fabian Werbin, from Beth Israel Synagogue, said that day that we start by seeking for peace in the home. That leads to peace in the city, which leads to peace in the land.
When everyone is on the same level (no valleys or mountains), dawn will break upon all of us, and there will be no more shadows, no more secrets, no more fears.
If this is the Advent season we intentionally bring to the light our regrets, our grudges and our betrayals, God’s light will bathe us in warmth and hope and comfort and forgiveness, so that we can move forward from the dry, barren wilderness of broken promises into Technicolor joy, with greater love and greater peace. Then we not-so-silently let it spread from us, to our city, into all our lands. Hope in the Lord. And watch for a sign of light and life.
Donna Hopkins Britt is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Roanoke’s Downtown West, where all are welcome: 608 West Campbell Avenue; calvaryroanoke.org.
Editors Note: This is Donna Britt’s last column for the Roanoke Star-Sentinel. I know I speak for all our readers in thanking her for sharing her inspiring words of hope, love and peace these last four years. Blessings Donna and Godspeed – The Roanoke Star Sentinel Staff.