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Perspectives on Peace

So beloved, while waiting for this, make every effort to be found at peace and without stain or defilement in God’s sight. ~ 2 Peter 3:14

About this time of year, if you have Great Horned Owls in your neighborhood you will likely begin to hear their courtship. A pair with take turns hooting out “Who’s awake? Me too.” Although smaller than the female, the male’s voice is lower due to testosterone. So you will be able to tell who is who in the call and response. If you are not a night owl yourself, you may be fortunate enough to see, or at least locate, a Great Horned Owl during the day with the help of noisy, large, black birds. Crows, particularly during breeding season, will regularly harass any owl with the audacity to be anywhere near a crow, especially if they have a nest nearby.

One day many years ago, I was walking in Salem Woods in Massachusetts. This was a favorite local patch for me, so I knew when I heard crows raucously cawing, gathering around a particular tree, and diving in occasionally, that they had most likely found a Great Horned Owl, since this was the section of the woods where I had consistently heard a pair dueting in the preceding months. When they chased a shadowy large bird between the trunks of the trees to a new perch, I was sure not only that it was an owl (because it flew down through the woods, not up and over the woods like a Red-tailed Hawk would have) but that it was probably the male. Even though it was late winter, it was the time of year when a female would be busy on a nest either awaiting hatching or tending to nestlings. The fact that the crows kept up the harassment the entire time I lingered and then passed through that area helped me to be certain that this was the poor, beleaguered male enduring the task of standing sentry all day, drawing the attackers away from where his vulnerable family was hunkered down.

That scene provides an illustration how peace can be a matter of perspective. The harried male owl was sacrificing his personal peace for the peace of his family. The safety of the hidden nest despite the relentless commotion, was peace for the rest of the owls. The containment of the potential predator was peace to the crows. As an outside observer, had I had the power to resolve the conflict there would have been quiet coexistence. Of course, that’s just the privilege that objectivity provides.

For most of us, war and violent conflict is someone else’s problem, allowing words like “peace on earth, goodwill to all,” to fall easily from our lips. Once again we prepare to remember the birth of the one we dare call the prince of peace in a world still hurting for real peace. Let us dare to struggle with our perspective.

Prayer: Heartbroken God, you chose human form to show us how you know our suffering. Forgive us for choosing to ignore the pain of our siblings. Amen.


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