Splashing around in theology.

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Location: Ottawa, Canada

I read lots. I have a cat. I drink coffee. Therefore, I am.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Peace. Be still.

I want to say a few things about peace.
But first, a disclaimer.
The things I am going to say about peace [inner peace] are not meant to be read as some kind of definitive and/or exhaustive canonical treatise on the subject.
They are merely the imperfect personal musings of an imperfect guy sitting in a nearly perfect coffeeshop. OK? Deal?

Be still, and know that I am God. (God, in Psalm 46:10)

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, in John 14:27)

I think that these are two of the most beautiful scriptures in the entirety of the Bible. And now I am going to say something that may sound a bit crazy.
I think that I know this peace, described here.
By that I mean to say that I know when I have it [experience it] and I know when I don’t. And the difference between the two states is so tangibly felt within me that I jealously guard the maintenance of the former thing…. the peace.
Peace, [I find] is much better than non-peace.
When I am still, I know that God is God.
Stillness though, is not a hot commodity nowadays! But it does exist. Sometimes you’ve got to go find it. Other times, it sneaks up on you. More on this in a bit.
But of the second scripture, what could Jesus have possibly meant, by saying that his sort of peace was unlike that which “the world” might give?
I believe that what he was implying was that his peace was not dependent upon favorable circumstances!
It is a peace that runs deeper than things, deeper than accomplishments, status, attachments, even deeper than happiness. It is a peace that breaks through all of these things to declare itself as superior to them all.
We all want it, [inner peace] but sometimes we don’t know that we want it until it is really hard to get it. Most often the way it goes is we live our lives oblivious to the call to inner peace. We clutter ourselves with so many attachments, so many bills that cannot be paid unless we work seven days a week for the next 95 years, we rack up so much INNER DEBT that our adrenaline cannot keep pace. We get so many inner scars from looking for peace in all the wrong places!
Sooner or later, we are disappointed. Why?
Because we did all this stuff, and now the thing that is most important is missing.
There’s no inner peace.
This is the time when a lot of people run to religion.
If you do not believe me on this point, just go to an evangelical church on open-mike testimony night!
What a litany of horror stories you will hear!
And you know what? Religion works for a time. [In some cases, so would winning the lottery.]
But overall, it’s a diversion from the real issue, because basing one’s need for inner peace on religion is still placing too much emphasis on externals, on things that will disillusion you, and disappoint you.

The thing is, the type of peace Jesus was talking about has virtually nothing to do with religion.
In fact, religion is the very thing that is keeping virtual hordes of people from experiencing true inner peace. Instead, it is causing them inner turmoil. There are tons of people who would experience an immeasurable increase in their level of inner peace if they completely abandoned their religious practises. For some people, a relaxing morning walk along the river would do them more spiritual good than the next 100 church services rolled into one! Each of us have a responsibility [to ourselves] to recognize if we are that person, and then act accordingly.

Someone might say, “But what about salvation? What about being saved? Isn’t that the ultimate concern? The thing we should fret over? Isn’t that why we practise religion?”
Salvation is an issue I am not really going into here, this evening.
What I am focussing on is inner peace.
Salvation and inner peace are apples and oranges.
I am not saying that inner peace brings salvation. [For one thing, how many opinions are there, concerning what salvation is?]
But, conversely, neither does “salvation” necessarily involve lasting inner peace! Point being, that some of the most “saved-est” people have the least inner peace within them.

Well then, what am I suggesting one ought to do, to get inner peace?
I don’t know.
But the way that would come closest to the way I would perceive the beginning stages of some sort of answer would be this:
I don’t get it.
That is the one thing I cannot do.

It is something that must be deliberately cultivated.
Because the world, [or life itself, as Jesus inferred] will suck it right out of you in ONE DAY’S TIME if you are not serious about jealously guarding it.

Let me provide a fictitious scenario...

You are out at a work-related party, being held at a beautiful resort, outside city limits. The atmosphere is electric. You are even more witty tonight than you usually are. Your spouse is over yonder, mixing it up, and also having a great time. Soon, you drift over to the verandah, drink in hand. The cool night air tempts you thitherward, so you descend the few steps to the long, winding gravel driveway. And you walk.
It is just you and the crunching gravel underfoot, and soon you saunter far enough away that the noise of the party is just a faint hum on the breeze, with the odd laughter poking its way through. You are just noticing how clean and fresh the air is tonight, when peripherally, your eye catches some movement, off to the left, through a clearing in the trees. You stop and see that a deer is as startled to have seen you, as you are, to have seen it.
You gaze at it for a long long while, until it feels safe with you and continues to nibble at some leaves in the brush. The deer turns and leaves before you do.

Anyone who does not [even now, reading this] appreciate that sort of a moment for what it is [a veritable epiphany] does not at all understand what inner peace is, in any experiential sense.
When the person in this scenario stops and marvels at the beauty of this deer, he or she is being still and knowing that God is God.
What if I don’t really believe in God, though?
It doesn’t matter, for the purposes of what I am discussing here.
When the person in the scenario stops and considers how thankful they are for the undeserved beauty of that moment, they are praying.
What if I have never really prayed before in my life?
It doesn’t matter, for the purposes of what I am discussing here.

My point in even mentioning this scenario is to now provide a possible counterpart to it.
Let’s say that another person has walked down the same gravel driveway, on the same evening, everything just as described above… but all that floods their mind is how alienated and out of place they feel to be alone, walking down a gravel driveway while a party is going on. The only reason they stop is to turn around and go back, [and because their drink needs replenishing]… and nowhere along the way have they really dialogued with themself. They were not living in a state of awareness. No freshness of appreciation. They would not have been able to tell you if the fenceline was to the left or the right of the road, and when they happened to see the startled deer, only thought of how nice it would be to shoot and eat it.
Lingering is not their style.

Which of these two people would you describe as someone who has a greater level of inner peace?

The thing is, what I mean by shutting down and being still is that you do not wait for those moments described in the first scenario, to come to you.
You go out and get them. You purposely seek them out.
You do what you have to do to get them. They are EVERYWHERE!
All around us.
And they are not religious, yet profoundly spiritual.


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