We spend a lot of time trying to find peace. We try to reduce the number of annoying people and circumstances from our lives. We ask folks to turn the TV down. We ask excited kids to tone it down. We ask emotional people to “take it easy.” We fight to control our external environment, but pay little attention to our internal one.
While we may find some peace by fixing the externals, it doesn’t last, nor is it true peace. True peace is not the absence of turmoil. True peace is found in the middle of turmoil.
Maharaji notes: Peace is not the absence of anything. Real peace is the presence of something beautiful. A.J. Muste writes: There is no way to peace; peace is the way. Thomas a Kempis writes, …My will is that you do not try to find a place free of temptations and troubles. Rather, seek a peace that endures even when you are beset by various temptations and tried by much adversity.
It can be hard to look at our own lack of peace. So let’s pick on my kids. When we take road trips my kids get anxious. It’s a combination of excitement and anticipatory anxiety. Adults can do the same thing. We may be waiting to hear back on a job offer, test results, or waiting for a big deal to go through. We get anxious. We may act out, be short tempered, and generally irritable. We’re not at peace.
On a recent road trip my wife and I were overcome with complaining, whining, and teasing from most of our kids. Despite our best peaceful parenting efforts, nothing was working. My wife had me stop the car. She gently explained that because of the obvious angst we would not be taking our annual trip. We were turning back, as it was clear no one was able to handle it. She didn’t yell. She just pointed out that no one was in a place to make it a safe, peaceful trip, and that was okay. We’ll try another time.
She then suggested that this would be a great opportunity to practice peace in the middle of turmoil. And that if we could collect ourselves in the next few minutes, we could proceed on our trip. While the thought of forfeiting the trip encouraged them to pull it together, the fact that my wife called out the anxiety for what it was allowed everyone to say “oh yeah, that’s all it is, no big deal.”
The first hurdle to overcome in practicing peace in turmoil is to recognize our own lack of peace. Lots of time we just don’t recognize we’re a mess. We’re tense and frazzled, but fail to notice the numerous signals from our body. Or we try to push through the pain to get to the other side. We try to “white knuckle” it. Or we try to fix everybody and everything else. None of this is peace. A counselor friend reminds me often to “Get those anxious thoughts on the table and say, hmmm – that’s interesting.” It really does make a huge difference. Prayer is huge here as well.
This true peace is no joke. It is attainable. Paul, writing from prison exemplifies this internal peace, reminding us to:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Take Jesus himself. How does a Jewish carpenter say Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (while hanging from a cross)? Peace. This wasn’t some unattainable mystical place of peace. It came from a direct and personal relationship with God. It is attainable right now regardless of circumstance. It grows with discipline and practice too.
Thanks for reading,
I love the video below and how Forest is able to maintain calm amidst Jenny’s storm: