Friday, January 8, 2010
It is becoming almost a foreign concept. We live with so much violence that surrounds us; wars, and rumors of wars; fighting – to survive, to get ahead, to get what we are ‘owed’; our lives are made up of conflict after conflict after conflict. Does the concept of peace ever materialize in our lives? Is it still possible to relax, unwind, let down our guard, and just take a moment to enjoy peace anymore?
Our soldiers fight side by side in Iraq, Afghanistan, and who knows where else tonight. We are told they fight to defend our freedom, but I tend to dispute that notion. I think they volunteered to serve to defend our nation, and the freedoms we all enjoy. But they fight mostly to survive, and to protect each other – brothers in arms. There is no higher state of tension to exist within, than life on a battlefield. Your life, your existence could be ended in a second, so vigilance is keen, senses are tuned beyond the norm, instincts are heightened, and soldiers keep watch. I am told most pray for peace. I believe that.
But when a soldier returns to his homeland here in the US, peace is hardly what he finds. Our entire way of life remains conflict after conflict. Of course here we do not typically bet our lives on the outcome, and our vigilance is much less as a result. We are able to enter into conflicts casually as a result, and enter them we do. But is this the fate of all mankind? The Bible states that the world is at war with the church – effectively evil remains at war with good. God did not start it, but He remains in the thick of it, until evil is finally and fully consumed and exists no more. So then do followers of God expect peace only after evil has been vanquished? Perhaps.
But the war with evil does not seem to dominate our conflict agenda throughout the day in most circumstances. We find ourselves fighting for a parking place at our destination, attempting to get just a bit further ahead in traffic, trying to secure the ‘last’ item on sale in the store. We compete for better pay, better promotions and opportunities. We argue endlessly with our families over questions and answers that have no real meaning – who stars in a sitcom we both enjoy, who sang that song 5 years ago, etc.. It is as though we thrive on the concept of conflict, and ignore or tune out any shot at real peace.
It gets so bad we begin to equate peace with death. Peace looks boring! There is nothing to do when at peace, nothing to captivate our senses, nothing to challenge our minds or bodies; peace looks like a real downer. This however is mere marketing myth, proposed by, and maintained by, our evil adversary. His intent in this regard is to wear us out. Over stress us, to the point where our meager bodies fail us. Heart disease is a leading killer, aggravated by stress. Stress is known to reduce our immune system, and make us more susceptible to illness of all varieties. But it doesn’t end there, oh no, evil also intends to so corrupt our minds that we believe the lies about existing in a state of peace.
Meditation, or the emptying of the mind, is sometimes equated to seeking peace. It is not. Being at peace does not mean being brain dead, any more than it means doing nothing, or being bored. Being at peace begins by stopping what you are doing for a second. Begin by thinking about your life and your activities in the context of the eternal. Is getting a few more car lengths ahead on your way to wherever – going to truly mean anything in three months, three years, or three decades. Will arriving at your destination a whopping twenty seconds earlier REALLY make a difference? I doubt it. So if getting ahead is not really that important, then maybe it doesn’t need to stress you out. Maybe it is OK to simply allow yourself to arrive when you arrive.
No, this is not an excuse to do what you want when you want to. Nor am I advocating you should ignore your commitments to be on time. Instead I would advocate better pre-planning and figuring into the equation enough time for the unexpected. But what I am saying is that sometimes your journey simply takes longer than you want. Accidents happen. Looky-Loos slow down traffic to a crawl. You wind up hating the guy in front of you for not being in the same rush you are.
All these things are fully capable of adding stress to your life – or – you are fully capable of deciding to be at peace instead. Again, allow yourself to arrive when you arrive. It’s not that you had to pull the car off the road and do nothing to be at peace. You are still driving. You are still in the same traffic, on the same road, listening to the same radio channel, probably late for the same event. But your mind is now free from the truly meaningless stress it was under. Instead you could contemplate on something that does actually have more meaning like the loved ones in your life for example. Your relationship with God, who by the way is watching and could still help you arrive on time – now there’s a novel concept, prayer to solve problems.
To really enjoy peace, don’t sit on your soda, get up and go outside. Yes, you remember that other foreign place you pass through on your way to your car, into the store, back into the car, and back into the house again. Yes, between all these events you were actually outside, in the great outdoors, albeit briefly. Step outside in your backyard if you have one, on a balcony if one is available to you, or outside your place of business if needs-be, and just take a brief minute to enjoy the sky, the sun or the clouds (as the case may be). Enjoy breathing for just a second. See if you can hear any birds near where you are. Listen for the crickets. Feel the warmth, or enjoy the biting cold as the season permits. It doesn’t take long, but just a minute in nature, a time-out for adults to THINK about something else besides every conflict we indulge every minute of the day. These minutes of peace are what make life worth it.
Winning is not everything, or the only thing, or the most important thing. Winning, means someone else lost. Winning, while being temporarily satisfying, does nothing to prevent or preclude the very next conflict. And losing, well that is another horrific feeling along the way. But being at peace, can help us to refocus on what is truly important. You do not have to give up a pursuit of excellence to be at peace either. You do not have to be substandard, or accept less, to be at peace. Being at peace is a conscience decision however, and it takes a conscience decision to achieve it. You don’t wander into a peaceful state. You have to set aside other pressures to find it. But it is always there. A moment where you set aside your stress and rethink what is really important. Allowing yourself to just be; deciding to overlook stress just briefly in order to let peace in your life.
Peace is what God intended for his creation to exist in. Conflict was never His intention, it was a result of evil. By nature evil is conflict as much as God is love. But peace is the state we will spend eternity in. Now take a second and really think about this, we will spend an infinite number of years living in complete peace. If that is our destiny as God has promised, why do we find it so necessary to create conflict in our lives? Evil will always bring conflict to us while it is around. Why do we choose to make our own in addition? So many of us choose to live so miserably everyday because we create conflicts and allow them to completely overwhelm us. We do nothing to reduce them. We are taught not to back down, give in, compromise, or give up. We fight, and fight, till we forget what we were fighting for. But not all these battles are really necessary. Too many are of our own making, and therefore, we might be able to get rid of them if we chose to.
It is unrealistic to think that on this earth we will exist full time in a state of peace. But it is equally short-sighted to believe peace is out of our reach at ALL times. Let us choose to make ourselves peacemakers, rather than warmongers. Let us not condemn others for their choices, but focus on our own, to improve us. Let us look inward and refocus our lives on what is eternally important, and allow ourselves the freedom to let go of what is not. Then we can begin to experience the peace of heaven. Then we can enter into the ‘rest’ our Lord offers. I thank God for the time He provides to me, to simply sit back for a moment and enjoy the peace He offers…
Posted by Kristian Nelson at 12:08 AM