After I arrived at the mall with two boxes of shoes and three shirts to return on a Thursday evening, I handed the receipt to the cashier in the shoe section. She stated, “Uh, these had to be returned within three days.” It was Thursday and I had bought the shoes last Saturday. I would have had to return them by Tuesday to get a refund but it was Thursday.
Two days late. The irritation began. “I can’t believe this!” I thought. I had bought the shoes for one of my daughters who wasn’t shopping with me on the previous Saturday since they were selling for 80 % off regular price, but she didn’t like them once I brought them home. Now, what was I going to do with shoes that couldn’t be returned?
I rode the escalator to the clothes department, handed the shirts with tags still on to the same woman who had sold me the shirts last Saturday and she blurted out, “Oh these had to be returned in three days. It says so on the receipt.” At that point, I thanked her for her time, turned and left the store. I had been too busy to try on the shirts at the store last Saturday, but once I tried them on at home, I didn’t like the way that they fit. Again, the news was not what I had expected.
Normally, at my local mall, items can be returned. I don’t return much but it is never a problem. At least it hadn’t been a problem until then.
The clothing cashier’s words reverberated in my mind like a gong as I walked out of the store. “It says so right on the receipt. It says so right on the receipt.”
Now, I had worked all day as a teacher, prepared spaghetti meat and noodles, picked up a dress that had been altered and walked into the mall around 7:15 p.m. My body and mind had almost reached their limit for the day of any form of weird and crazy, but the two rejections jolted me. They tried to remove my peace.
It’s so easy to give in and allow our peace of mind to be pierced by words of others. The peace seems to evaporate like steam as the irritation pot starts boiling. Although I stayed calm during my encounters with the cashiers, I also felt mad that I hadn’t realized that I only had three days to return reduced merchandise. It said so right on the receipt, but I had stuffed the receipt down in the bags. I couldn’t know the truth because I had ignored the truth.
The calmness and peace that I had entered the store with had now been leaking out of my mind. I had to just face now that I will no longer have the money that I had spent on the shoes and shirts. Even though my peace faded for a moment, I allowed myself to not stress over and dwell on the unfortunate turn of events.
In that unexpected place, I had to remind myself that the peace that Jesus promised is still with us today. It may feel like chaos, like utter destruction, like unthinkable difficulty, but there is still peace. That sweet peace may still be waiting by my bed where I read the Bible this morning or at church when the music and message seeped deep into my heart last weekend, but I have to remember where it is. I have to return to peace or I will be aggravated, irritated and sad.
I may not be able to instantly arrive back to my Bible by my bed or sit in church, but I can call on Jesus wherever I am on Earth. I can release the anxiety and pray. I list out my issues in prayer and let Jesus carry them. On my own, I struggle beneath the weight of the burdens. When I know that He has heard me in prayer, my mind begins to reconnect and remember His peace.
I know that Jesus left behind peace for his friends before he ascended back to heaven to provide comfort for the restless hearts who would soon walk on Earth without his physical presence. He knew that we would also have a need to think back to where we had peace and remember it is still there. The God who took time to tell us that He was leaving peace for us wants us to remember to seek peace when nothing seems peaceful.
We can notice when our peace begins to fade and get peace back through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. As soon as peace appears to have left us, it is time, right then, to take a moment and recall that Jesus said He was leaving us peace. Pause and pray for that peace, the kind that passes all understanding; the kind that will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus; The calm that is needed for our moment.
Right in the middle of the turmoil, our hearts must remember the path leading back to peace. Jesus left His peace here on Earth. This deliberate action on His part gives me extreme comfort knowing that I can reach for His peace and it will come; that peace that Jesus gave me when I read his Word this morning at home or when I shared my heart with him in prayer; the assurance that He’s got this, He’s with me and He’ll never leave me.
Remember these words of Jesus right before he went back to be with His Father: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27 (ESV)