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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Finding Peace

One of the things I am convinced is true about spirituality is that it is not always about sunshine, laughter, and good times.  Anyone who has lived knows that life is not just sunshine, laughter, and good times.  I suppose many of us might wish that were true.  But it is not and there is no use in hoping for something that is not realistic.

Maybe the one place where the illusion that life is sunshine, laughter, and good times always seems true is in the first blushes of a romantic relationship.  When you meet “that one” who becomes the sole center of attention, then life does seem to be sunshine, laughter, and good times.  For a short while, this may well be true.  In fact, it often seems too good to be true.  And it is!

I don’t know how many times I have heard people tell someone who has experienced death in a family or some other tragedy that “time heals.”  Of course, that usually is true…but it does take time for the healing to take place.  And in the beginning it seems unbelievable.  Often that person does not want to heal; they would rather re-wind the clock and have things just like they were before the death or tragedy.  To know that time heals means they will adjust and be ok…and that in itself can be scary!

But I don’t know that I ever heard anyone say that “time wounds.”  And yet I think it is just as true.  If we live long enough, if we care enough, if we get invested enough, sooner or later we will be wounded.  I like the Latin word for wound, vulnerabilis.  To live is to be vulnerable.  I knew this was true for myself when I learned that being in control, being defensive, or any other coping mechanism would not ultimately suffice.  I was still vulnerable.  To be human is to be vulnerable.

I never forget the first account in the Christian Bible is the story of God bringing creation out of chaos.  It was only later that the Church Fathers began to talk about creation out of nothing.  In Genesis it is creation out of chaos.  And actually, that sounds more like real life.  If God had to do it that way, why shouldn’t I?

In some ways that is not much solace.  That means to me that chaos is the given.  And maybe that is the way to understand vulnerability.  Being vulnerable, as we all are, means we always are walking and living on the borders of chaos.  It is easy to get lost, diverted, or thrown into chaos.  We can do it to ourselves.  And others certainly do it to us!  In the moment it feels like chaos wins.  It may feel like this is our eternal fate.

But there is good news.  That is what spirituality ultimately brings to us: good news.  The good news is that peace can be found.  So how does one find peace?  I think there are three places where peace is found.  It is not magic, but it usually works.

The first place is in nature.  Our contemporary, sedentary (that is sitting eternally on our rear ends!) culture does not embrace and experience nature.  But it can be majestic.  It offers silence, solace, and serenity.  Nature invites us to come to her and just be….just breathe…just center.  Don’t be in a hurry. Like God, you are there to see creation come out of chaos.  It is a miracle, not magic.

Secondly, peace is found in another person.  The other person has to be someone who is centered and already knows deep peace.  Typically, it is a person who is seasoned in the Spirit.  It is someone who has time to be attentive to you.  Probably it is not words, but presence that the person offers.  Just as God spoke creation into being, so this other person can “speak” peace into your being.

Finally, peace is found in community.  For me, community is a group doing the same thing I just said another person can offer.  But it usually is more powerful. An authentic spiritual community is centered in the power of the Presence of the Spirit and inevitably draws you into this Presence. This is the true counter-weight to our individual vulnerabilities.

Be at peace.  And if you are not, may you find peace this day. 

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