I don’t often think of myself as a particularly talented individual, at least not in the common sense of the word “talented.” I’m not a distinguished dancer, expert pianist or widely published author. But recently I’ve come to realize that God has given me talents that require discovery and cultivation. For instance, I have a talent for Connectedness, or at least that’s what the StrengthsFinder test has indicated to me.
StrengthsFinder is a Gallup-generated online assessment that serves as a companion tool to the national bestseller StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. My talent for Connectedness means I “have faith in the links between all things.” As a Christian, this makes sense to me. The test results further indicate that I believe there is a reason behind everything, and that I think all creation and humankind are linked in some way. For me, that link clearly is God and his beautiful plan for creation – a link that has been broken.
Beyond my inherent belief that God has a reason for every event and that He is the thread weaving through creation, I also recognize that we have lost much of the Connectedness God originally intended for us. I think most people feel this loss in some way. They feel isolated, unloved and broken off from the Creator. They may not fully realize that their separation from God is where their grief, worry and lack of fulfillment stem from. But at their core, everyone has some sense that things are not as they should be. It only takes 10 minutes of watching the evening news to realize that something is wrong in our world – that the world has fallen away from its potential goodness, from the way things were meant to be.
In the Bible, the word “shalom” refers to the way things ought to be. We often translate this Hebrew word to mean “peace,” but shalom goes far beyond a state of tranquility or the mere absence of conflict. Shalom is what exists when the link between God, creation and humankind is restored. In his book Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. gives us a great definition of shalom as “the webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight.” With the Fall, however, shalom was lost to us and the linked web of creation fell apart.
Because of our sin, four main relationships have been fractured: our relationship with God, our relationship with others, our relationship with creation and our relationship with our own self. This brokenness manifests itself in a myriad of ways: depression, feeling disconnected from God, eating disorders, bickering, selfishness and the pollution of this earth.
But because He loves us and delights in us, God has provided a way for us to be restored into relationship with Him again. The wages of sin are death, destruction, isolation and separation from God (Romans 6:23). But by sending His son Jesus to die in our place, God paid all debts and paved a way for us to live a life connected to Him again. We now have the opportunity to experience the “universal flourishing, wholeness and delight” that God intended for us (Plantinga). God longs to welcome us into His kingdom of shalom, but we have to be willing to walk through the door.
When we look to God for direction, walk with Him daily, lean on His understanding – not our own (Proverbs 3:5-6) – and delight in His plans for us and all of creation, then we can begin to experience the beauty of shalom again. God is calling us to become agents of shalom, models of shalom and witnesses to shalom. But how do we live that out in our daily lives?
That’s the question I hope to explore in my writing. I want to delve further into what shalom looks like, how God wants to restore those four fractured relationships and how we can spread the message of shalom, drawing others into His kingdom. Shalom should affect the use of our time and money and alter the rhythm of our lives. And ultimately, the church should be the central example of shalom on this earth.
I’m leaning on God’s word for direction and also looking to inspired authors like Plantinga for help interpreting God’s intended glory for this world. I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I expect that everyone will agree with everything I write. So I encourage you to send me your questions, offer your suggestions and share your experiences. For it is only in community that shalom can truly grow.