On Sunday, one of my parishioners asked me if I ever found peace. She was worried about me. I appreciate that. I thanked her and said yes, I have peace from different places. But this short interaction caused me to think over the last couple of days. They have been full days – lots of driving, professional training, pastoral care, social ministry, meetings, visitations, phone calls, attempts as keeping up with e-mail, and a little bit of family time and sleep pinched in too.
Do I experience peace, is the question. Often I express many things in my blog that are not peaceful – but they are things that happen in the world. In a sense I don’t experience peace – I don’t receive peace from the world and the way that it is. Often, the world is stressful and broken. In the last two days I have spoken with a family whose father is dying, worked with a man who was hungry and tired, did pastoral care with someone who was in the midst of change, checked in on the sick and home bound. I also watched comment after comment on Dr. Ford and Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh. So many comments back and forth. So many people who are convinced they are right, regardless of the truth – which not a single one of us really knows. So convinced that any question that might differ from an established opinion wasn’t just wrong, but turned the other person into an enemy.
All of this breaks my heart.
Where do I experience peace? Often times, when I am alone. When I can block out the noise of people arguing about who is right and scapegoating those who are wrong.
I experience peace when I go on a run with our dog. We are tethered together – each of us are limited to how fast or slow we can go because of the tethering of a leash. We run. We get distracted, but pull each other back on track. Running is therapeutic for me. It is a release of stress. It is in nature where the only argument that exists is how long something alive will live. There is no argument about who is right and who is wrong. There is no loyalty to artificial and temporary organizations like political parties. There is only living.
I receive peace when I listen to classical music and orthodox chant. These are calming sounds that orient me towards the holy.
I receive peace when I have a visit with a home bound person. There is no rat race, no trying to impress. There is no position or authority issues. There is no ignoring the reality that exists around us. There is honesty with people who are home bound. There is no fear of just sitting in silence without words being necessary. Presence is all that a person wants. It is a breath of fresh air.
I receive peace when I take time to be with God – reading Scripture and praying and writing thoughts and feelings. These are times I can ask God questions – not looking for answers though. The answers don’t matter really. Each time I ask a question, it opens up the door to understanding, to deeper relationship with God.
I receive peace. And then I live on that peace. The world is very broken. There is homelessness, opioid addictions, poverty, drug abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking, power struggles, arrogance, and more in so many places – even within our own families and communities. Often we would prefer to pretend these things aren’t happening. But pretending they don’t exist is not peaceful to me. It’s really painful to know that these things go on and that we aren’t willing or able to respond, or at least acknowledge that they exist in our midst. It is much more peaceful to me to acknowledge their reality than to have a sham of false peace. At least we can be honest. And that is a starting place.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called Children of God.” (Matthew 5:9). Peace isn’t a passive thing that just comes to us. We are called to be peacemakers – to create peace where there is none. We aren’t called to just slip away and experience peace. It’s not all about us. We are called to take the peace that we know and to insert it where peace is not known. The only way to do that though is to acknowledge the lack of peace that exists. How else to bring peace where it isn’t?