Sitting in the carpool line, I’m surrounded by a crowd of high-occupancy vehicles. Almost all of them are hued in the peaceful colors of a seascape – navy blue, metallic blue, blue-green, silver, and shimmering beige. There’s not a lot of red or yellow here – no shocking colors to interrupt the serene abundance of blues. Minivans are designed to blend in, I think.
Inside the cars are mostly moms, but a couple of dads and several grandparents. Some have come straight from the office to pick up their little ones, and others have worked the day away running errands and managing the demands of their full households. We’re coming from many different directions for a singular purpose: We are each collecting our cherished offspring.
The routine of the carpool line is like a well-rehearsed dance performance. Everyone knows their part and slides into step without being told what to do. Cars begin arriving about 20 minutes before school lets out, assembling in a long line that winds through the parking lot. The unruffled, organized people arrive first and set a good example for the rest of us. The frantic, overbooked folks fill in the back of the line. We’re all checking our watches with various levels of intensity to be sure that we’re staying on schedule for the day.
In good weather, some PTA moms congregate outside their cars and talk about school activities. The rest sit in their cars reading or talking on the phone as they wait. The staff who manage the line of children on the curb talk urgently into their walkie-talkies, calling for dismissal and organizing the kids into groups. We are focused, cooperative, and calm – sticking with the routine. It is a quick break in the midst of the hectic day. The whole scene looks sweet and simple. It’s a lovely picture of community – a very suburban ideal. One might even call it peaceful.
As I observe the scene, I think about peace. I think that the view before me is not a picture of true peace. We have gotten very good at creating a façade of peace. On the surface, it appears that every one of us has it all together. We are blending in with our shiny cars and our happy talk about the busyness of suburban life. We commiserate about our full schedules, inserting subtle boasts about our children’s accomplishments, our demanding jobs, our overwhelming yard work, our volunteer commitments, and the birthday parties and soccer games we’re juggling this weekend. We are working hard to impress each other with this image of peaceful productivity – but our image is interrupted by talk of stress and frantic schedules, and, well . . . our discontent. We don’t get enough free time, our children aren’t getting enough individualized attention in school, the kids are always fighting, and we’re running late. We need help!
I want real peace – the kind that is beyond understanding. I want a peace that can conquer my worries and discontent. I want this so that I can show it to my children, because I know that they need it and I don’t think I can teach it to them. In the midst of a world that is decidedly un-peaceful, I want my children to carry this supernatural, God-given peace within them.
This kind of peace is borne out of intentional connection to my Creator. God will help me to see the good that is around me and will make my heart glad. God will deliver peace in just the right measure for today, and God’s peace will extend beyond my routines, ahead of my circumstances and it will not be defined by this world.
Today in the carpool line, I’ll pause and pray. I will express gratitude for the good things and ask for the gift of peace. I will pause and sense peace bubbling up within me – a gift from my Creator – and I will hope for an opportunity to share it.
“Stop striving and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10
Julie Clendenin is the mother of three young daughters. She sits in the carpool line every Monday afternoon in Silver Spring, Maryland. She drives a silver Honda and tries not to blend in too much.