Of course, I felt a certain... satisfaction to be presented with his severed head, but I had thought his fiery accusations would vanish just as soon as he was dead. I was a fool. It isn't hard to kill: a brief command unsheathed the silver blade and all was done. But though his tongue lay still, the words it spoke could never be unsaid. His living voice would echo through the palace; his ghostly voice still echoes much the same. It surely is a brand of hell's own malice that I still hear him calling me by name. By all the gods that are or that might be, I beg you, John—leave me in peace.
The good folks at Fathom recently published a poem of mine about John the Baptist. The piece I’ve just shared here is a companion piece of sorts, telling the story from the side of the villian, the evil queen Herodias. I didn’t plan for the final line of each poem to be about peace (or the lack thereof), but I do think it’s apt. Peace is something that money cannot buy, that power cannot acquire, but when it comes to us as God’s gift in our darkest moments, it can surround and hold us up, as it did John.
That doesn’t mean that the peace looks like the sort of peace we’d expect, though. One of my favourite quotes about peace is from Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede:
The motto was ‘Pax’ but the word was set in a circle of thorns. Peace, but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort—seldom with a seen result: subject to constant interruptions, unexpected demands, short sleep at nights, little comfort, sometimes scant food: beset with disappointments and usually misunderstood, yet peace all the same, undeviating, filled with joy and gratitude and love. ‘It is My own peace I give unto you.’ Not, notice, the world’s peace.
I think that was the sort of peace John knew and which Herodias lacked entirely. And when it comes to whose shoes you’d rather be in, it makes all the difference.