I like peace. One of my favorite times is during the week at about 8:44 a.m. This is when I have finished (mostly vain attempts at) the morning chores, working on my email, and devotions with my children. And—you’ll need to use your imagination here—throw in a really good yelling match or two, maybe about someone’s square on the couch or the completely reasonable argument about why a child needs to wear shorts to school in subzero wind chills. Then I give a hug and kiss to those two awesome kiddos, put them on a school bus, wave goodbye—and then heave a huge sigh of relief. Peace and quiet.

In an effort toward personal prayer time each day, I moved our big comfy chair close to our fireplace. From there, most mornings after the kids go to school, I pray, read, journal, and try to reflect and listen to what God might have to say to me. It fills me up for whatever is on the task list that day. Many times it is my source of strength and discernment for tough decisions. I long for this to be a time of experiencing and receiving peace. It’s a deeper, more stabilizing kind of peace than the peace-and-quiet variety of peace.

Real peace requires work, sometimes scary work, that doesn’t always or even usually result in a momentary experience of quiet.

I’ve been reflecting about peace lately and how different it’s turning out to be than what I once imagined. I’m learning it is not simply about finding quiet, as fabulous as that is. And it is not only about finding the deep place of calm, centered serenity in the core of one’s soul, as much as I long for that. Peace is not just about me as an individual and how well I deal with stress. It’s also about my relationships with God, with others, with myself—and how faithfully I am approaching them. Real peace requires work, sometimes scary work, that doesn’t always or even usually result in a momentary experience of quiet.

And I’ve found myself asking, Do I really want peace?

Here are some things I’m learning might be required if I want peace:

Forgiveness. The theological implications of forgiveness require more space than I have here. Practically, the idea probably carries different connotations for everyone. For me, and as it relates to peace, I’m learning that forgiveness starts with caring about the health of my own being and also about the person or situation from which my need for forgiveness comes. Obviously, caring about myself is a little easier most of the time. But I have to do both before I can know peace.

Sacrificial love. A love that sacrifices reflects a willingness to try again. To open oneself to the possibility of being frustrated or hurt or misunderstood again. Honestly, there might be times when unhealthy, cyclical abuse is occurring, in which case discernment is necessary. Or maybe the other people involved are not ready for what one is offering. But a willingness to be vulnerable is key.

An openness to the possibility I’m wrong. I have messed up way too many times to hold to a stubborn claim that I have it all under control and I know what I’m doing. And maybe it seems counterintuitive to peace to go around thinking I could be wrong. But I can’t shake the rigid lack of grace and even bitterness I feel when I don’t consider the possibility that I could be wrong. Maybe I didn’t make the right call during that transition or crisis. I may have misjudged that person’s motives or misinterpreted their behavior. Maybe theologically I missed the mark with a sermon. Perhaps what it comes down to is letting go of the need to be right. I think that puts me on the road to peace.

Confronting what I fear. How I long to avoid! Avoidance is such an appealing option, perhaps because it’s a close relative of procrastination, and for me that usually involves comfort food. Whatever the case, my avoidance of fear tends to be also an unwitting avoidance of peace. So I must name what I fear. And then, in prayerful discernment, I must decide how I need to confront it.

The kind of peace I seek isn’t just about behavior; it’s about a posture of the heart.

None of these four attitudes are particularly enjoyable. And I can certainly come up with other activities that are enjoyable and which also promote peace. I can create space and time to sit and read, or work on a puzzle, or sit in front of the fireplace with a cup of coffee. But in and of themselves, these things are merely behaviors. And the kind of peace I seek isn’t just about behavior; it’s about a posture of the heart.

Behaviors can bring momentary peace. But the posture of the heart can bring the kind of peace that anchors the soul during the hurricanes of life. It’s the I-don’t-know-how-my-world-got-turned-upside-down-but-this-girl-is-standing-firm kind of peace. Maybe it’s even the peace-on-earth kind of peace. Do I have it down? Some days, maybe. But honestly some days I don’t. Sometimes I lack the discernment or the wisdom or the discipline I need. It’s a work in progress, like everything, probably for the entirety of my life. But I’m starting to be more aware of what it really means to live in peace. And I think that’s a good start.