Peace is Possible (But it Takes Practice!)
(Read in under :04)“Peace is its own reward.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
For a long time, I’ve been wrestling with a question, trying to wrap myself around something we all think about. Why am I really here? What’s my purpose anyway? Is this all there is? How do I find joy and peace in the unending messiness and soul-sucking disarray of daily life? How do I untangle myself from the troubles, fears, worries, distractions and concerns of daily life so I can get to the heart of why I was born? Why do I bow down to the “tyranny of the urgent” instead of seeking what’s meaningful and lasting? Do you ever wonder?
I’ve talked to a lot of folks lately, men and women of every age. When I ask how they’re doing, they sigh and answer “busy” or “way too busy.” I mean right up to the doors of a nursing home or hospital bed! The answer is the same; “slammed”, “overwhelmed”, “exhausted.” And yet, when we find ourself at the end of our days, we’d probably choose to go back to the way it is right now. My mom often quipped, “…back in the good old days, previously known as these trying times,” and isn’t that the truth? Maybe we instinctively know that at least for now we have a choice.
All around me I see pain and suffering, hardship and heartbreaks. But more often, I see people trapped in the gray fog of just making it through another day. To do what? Get a little rest; get off the hamster wheel for the weekend? And the weekend is jam-packed too and offers no relief. Slow death by the clock and calendar in a mind-numbing march to the bottom of a list that never gets done. Deep down, we know this is not how we were designed to live.
But Betty, you say, I really have problems, big problems. My kid has no friends, my house is a mess, my back is killing me, we owe a small fortune to the IRS and, and, and. But in my whole life, I’ve never met a person without problems, obstacles, and challenges. Not a solitary one.
Way back in 1851, Herman Melville wrote this in his classic, Moby Dick. “For as this appalling ocean surrounds the verdant land, so in the soul of man there lies one insular Tahiti, full of peace and joy, but encompassed by all the horrors of the half-known life.” In the flowery language of the day, Melville knew it’s necessary to find some small island of peace and joy deep inside of us. An inner island that can remain untouched by life’s stormy seas. It’s truer today than ever.
This dual nature of life has been guaranteed since the beginning of time. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world, you will have trouble.” He laid it right out, unvarnished. But he also taught, “I have overcome the world.” How did he suggest we do this? By focusing our attention above and beyond the chaos of daily living, to what is eternal.
I’m not naïve to the reality of living in the world as it is. Very few of us have the means to take a lengthy sabbatical on a private tropical island. Fewer still would choose a monk’s life of contemplative minimalism. But what we can do is to decide on the things in life that matter to us at the very core of who we are. Then, we can make a genuine commitment to incorporate some small actions into our daily life to move us in that direction.
Is it easy? No. Simple, yes, easy no. In truth, it can be terribly hard. However, we can begin now to live in a way that reflects what matters most. Every day we can make the next and then the next right decision. We need to harness our desire for inner peace and put it to work. And, if we slip up, we simply begin again. Lots of tiny changes can add up to a very big difference in how we look back on our life.
Don’t allow your life to be used up chasing the ordinary; the endless pull of unimportant but deceptively urgent matters of the everyday. Focus a little less on doing things right and more on doing the right thing. Whether you call it your insular Tahiti or as in Phillipians 4:7 “the peace that passes all understanding”, every day as the sun sets you can look back with fewer regrets, more peace and more joy.
Peace out, friends. See you Monday!