Are you at peace? Peace is a quality of life long sought after and too seldom found. One of the ancient names of God is “Yahweh Shalom.” It means “The Lord is Peace!” Peace is not a quality that can be squeezed out of human circumstances, nor conjured up by finite and mortal minds. Peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but rather it is a quality of life that emanates from God Himself. Peace is not bovine placidity. Peace is the fruit of the Victory of Christ Jesus in your life. Peace is the tranquility of spirit that rests upon the Rock the never moves.
Isaiah the prophet says, “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusts in thee” (Isaiah 26:3 RSV). Peace comes from relationship with the God of peace. Peace comes from resting in Him who is Peace Itself.
Several things destroy peace. An unwillingness to forgive, or an unwillingness to love either yourself or another, and sometimes an unwillingness to stand out as peace makers. Fear, guilt, and control issues, also block the entrance of peace. The first step towards resting in the God Who is Peace often starts with the action of surrender, the willingness to let go, to relax, to let drop, to be still. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
Experience teaches us that such surrender is often beyond our grasp, but experience also teaches us that when we crack open the doors of our hearts and say to Him, “You know I am not willing, but I am willing to be willing”, that the miracle of peace and inner healing begins. It is a principle of Divine grace and love, that He comes down to our level and meets us where we are, not where we think we ought to be. That in a very real sense is why the Living God became Incarnate in the flesh of humankind.
The classic Gospel story of peace is taken from the adventure of the disciples on the sea of Galilee.
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?" 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?" 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him" [Mark 4:35-41]?
It is the presence of Jesus, that brought peace to the disciples on the sea of Galilee despite their fears, and it is the presence of Jesus that brings peace to us today. That is to some extent a matter of both grace and discipline. To be at peace takes a conscious redirection of our minds and hearts. St. Benedict reminds us, “Let us consider then, how we ought to behave in the presence of God and his angels, and let us stand to sing the psalms in such a way that our minds are in harmony with our voices.” [The Rule, Ch. 19:6,7].
The classic Anglican understanding of true peace, true tranquility of spirit, rests on a three-fold foundation: The Daily Offices (Morning and Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer), Habitual Recollection (The practice of the presence of God, and informal prayers), and faithful attendance at Holy Eucharist. Peace is an acquired grace that comes from a spiritual orientation carried into action in prayer and worship. When you are intentionally with the God of peace, peace will be yours. Peace is a grace from God that comes as the fruit of spiritual discipline.
Our desire is often for instant results: “I want peace, and I want it right now!” Peace doesn’t often come that way, rather it is born and nurtured in our hearts. There is a necessary process. We become at least willing to forgive, and willing to love, even though for the life of us we can’t artificially drum up either the willingness to forgive and love. Both are a gift and a grace of God that come with the surrender of our circumstances to Him, and with the decision to move towards forgiveness and love.
We begin to pray and read Scripture, at least taking on ourselves one of the Daily Offices; and we persist day after day in humble, quiet discipline. The process is much like planting a seed; once planted don’t keep pulling it up to see if roots are developing. Plant the Offices within your soul and water with persistence, keeping your soul in the light of the Word. Peace most often steals upon us unawares. Looking back we say with some small surprise, “Well, well, it seems I have been at peace now for some while. So, taking time to be quiet in the Presence of God is the herald of peace. Would you expect it to be any other way?