“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – Jesus
I can’t identify the precise moment when it changed, but I remember life before making a priority of peace.
Back then, I didn’t think twice about sacrificing peace at the alter of busyness. I killed it often at the alter of meeting other people’s “needs”, demands, and expectations. Sometimes, peace got bled by me at the alter of my own insecurity, striving, and image management. Less often, but most painful for me, I killed peace at the alter of worry, control, and worse-case-scenario fantasies.
Those were tiring, soul-starving, non-stop-action days. I was “there” for a lot of people. I was “appreciated” for my hard work. I was “honored” for how well I performed. I was “proud” of all the “accomplishments” I saw in my life.
But I was not at peace. I lacked a deep and abiding, untouchable and transcending peace.
These days, whenever the peace of my heart is compromised, I notice. And reestablishing it’s integrity immediately becomes the priority of all my energy. Why? Because without a peaceful spirit, I stop trusting anything I say or do. Without a peaceful spirit, I know that everything in my thinking is skewed. Everything I do, say, and feel are suspect.
So I basically put everything on hold to explore and resolve what is going on inside of me…and let me be clear about one thing I’ve learned…it most assuredly IS inside of ME that the problem of peacelessness resides, no matter how much I’d like to attribute it to outward circumstances.
Jesus said, “Do not let your heart be troubled.” He implies a certain amount of power available to us here, an inward authority over the troubled heart.
He goes on to suggest that he gives a certain kind of peace (“my peace,” he says).
And his kind of peace, evidently, is not available from our outward circumstances in the world (“I do not give as the world gives,” he says).
So why, then, do we work so hard to create or control outward circumstances to try to feel peace? Why do we pretend that if “so and so” would just do things different, or if “such and such” wasn’t happening, that all would then be well?
No, the problem of peacelessness is not in the world. It is in us. There are certain circumstances that are not yours or mine to change. And there are certain people that are present, not to torment you, but to play a provocative role in your ability to develop a self-responsible, eyes-wide-open, invulnerable sense of empowering peace.
Then, and only then, can you trust your outward actions and decisions and words.
The most disorienting of peace challenges to my heart are the ones that I can’t seem to explain to myself. “Why is this bothering me so much?” I ask myself. “Why am I obsessing over this?” “What is that reaction about?”
When this happens, there is usually some unconscious, unresolved history that God is trying to work out in me. A big part of my job, then, is to “let it happen” (or better said, “let Him happen”)…to cooperate with the unsettledness of it all and let it take me where it (or He) needs me to go.
Many people I know (me included), whenever they experience some assault on their peace either get too involved (by controlling, throwing fits, or emotionally blackmailing) or get too passive (by not caring, hiding behind judgments, or denial).
But these strategies for finding peace come from the world. They provide a way too cheap alternative to peace that works like a drug, providing temporary relief that will not be able to withstand the weight of future challenges to a truly peaceful heart.
May Jesus leave us the peace that can. His peace.
And then right before I hit post, this commercial showed up, reminding me that when peace reigns in my heart, the world looks like a totally different place.