November 29, 2019

Peas Be With You

This is a love letter of sorts to some friends; my wish for them right now is peas. With all of my love. 

When I was a very little person, I didn’t much care for peas. The texture of mush and a toddler’s palette still brings back memories of pushing them around my plate with a fork. Vain attempts to hide them under piles of potato mash – I’m not sure I understand why it was ok to leave potato on the plate but peas had to be eaten. That was the system. Successfully negotiating my way down from “5 more” to “3 more” mouthfuls of peas may have cradled a love of ‘the deal’ and sparked a career in real estate. Who knows?

A great deal of complexity was introduced to my relationship with peas as a little person who often found themselves in church pews of a Saturday evening. At the end of a very long service, the parishioners would turn to one another and say, “Peas be with you.” 

It was a warm exchange in the church and I have such clear memories of confusion at why, with such warmth and earnestness, strangers in life but with common faith might turn to one another and wish them “peas”. 

There was also a song about peas. I now know that this was the prayer of St Francis of Assisi, who said, “Make me a channel of your peas.” There was also a part of the liturgy where God was asked to “grant us peas in our day”. 

Dad occasionally wanted to be left alone to read a book or drink a beer in peas, but to me, peas were the very last thing I thought anyone would ever want – from God, from one another, or in their day. 

As I grew a little older, I watched the news stories from war correspondents about the Ethiopian Civil War, Operation Desert Storm, Bosnia, Chechnya, and they all painted a terrible picture of violence, insecurity, famine and fear. I learned about these countries where there weren’t any peas and started to build a picture of why they were so important, and not to be left on the plate.

My tiny little brain could not wrap itself around this revolting common vegetable as a currency of comfort. There must have been another kind of peas. 

Muddling my way through childhood and starting to put pieces of information together, I guess at some point I figured it out and realised that I had this whole peas thing mixed up and what everyone was talking about was a different type of peas altogether.

Peace, as I come to understand it as an adult, is about being free. 

To be free of the disturbance of war and hostility is really the definition of what that means for countries, but as people, vulnerable to the elements, to disease, and to feelings; we have all kinds of wars that affect us and interrupt our peace. 

Our essence for a time on earth is wrapped in a physical body, made up of complex biological systems. Those bodies can be troublesome and they can grow weary. As they do, they no longer provide the peaceful homes that our spirits need. 

Saying vale to loved ones is a terrible business. It can be an enormous challenge to find comfort but remember that we pray for our beloved to rest “in peace”. Free from pain, free from sadness, free from disturbance. It is a kind and beautiful prayer to honour someone who is cared for so that they are in peace.

Making peace, or finding peace, when grief has come to visit is not easy and sad days are long. Too long sometimes to take day by day, so go minute by minute if you have to, but go in peace. 

Finding language to express sympathy and a prayer for hope in sadness always seems insufficient and maybe that is why St Francis wanted to be a channel of peace. For all of the time, but especially at this time – Peace, be with you.