Friday, December 12, 2008

STRUGGLING to find peace

Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.

- Etty Hillesum,
died in Auschwitz in 1943 at the age of 29. From An Interrupted Life, a compilation of her diaries and letters.

I wish I knew how exactly to do that. Something I'm discovering is that most of us lack peace because we don't stop struggling.

Last summer I found out that I had high blood pressure because of the triglycerides in my blood. My other cholesterol levels were fine, but I was "pre-diabetic." I would have to lose weight, exercise daily, and give up all sorts of carbs and starches. I felt terribly frightened and depressed. I felt sorry for myself.

My wife asked me to stop writing my weekly column in our local newspaper because apparently neighbors and colleagues were avoiding her and talking about me behind my back because they disagreed so vehemently with my columns that scrutinized Sarah Palin and researched John McCain's connections to the "Keating 5" and the mortgage crisis. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I had tied up my whole sense of identity with being a writer, even though it was barely more than a hobby- really I'm an Art teacher.

I was getting a lot of hate email and negative blog comments besides one or two letters to the editor. That compounded on top of 8 rejection letters in a row from syndicates for either columns or cartoons. Once again I was struggling with depression, feeling sorry for myself.

I was just starting to get over it (grief/withdrawls/just taking a break from it/letting go of something that I'd let become too important to me- whatever you want to call it) when my mom had a scare with a spot on her lung (which turned out to be an infection, not cancer- thank God), then one of my Aunts was killed in a car accident, and most recently my brother-in-law took his own life.

It is very hard not to feel sorry for myself.


So, how to find peace?

Less of me, more of Him. If I look inward, I find disappointment, weakness, sadness, selfishness, anger, darkness, brokenness. But if I look to the cross, I see a God who loves me enough to die for me, to be persecuted and flogged, humiliated and tortured, so that I can be in a right relationship with Him.

If I look to Him, he shows me other people who have their own hurt whom I can offer comfort and support to. He shows me that I am not alone.

He brought people to me to tell me how much they had liked my column and miss it. People who complimented my writing.

I lost almost 40 pounds in 6 months and while I have to take blood samples every other day, my glucose levels are good and I don't need any medicine or insulin.

He brought throngs of people to me with their kindness and support in my grief. He brought people who shared their joyful and funny memories of my brother-in-law. He brought me closer to my wife, my own brother, and to my other brother-in-law.

I have a lot to be grateful for. I just had to stop struggling, look around and see that everything would be okay. It's like someone who's flailing their arms around fearfully because they don't know how to swim, when all they have to do is relax and stand up because they're in such shallow and still, calm, placid water that they're perfectly safe.

Do you want to know how to find peace? Stop fighting it.

Not practical enough for you? Take these simple steps:
  1. Thank God for what good things you CAN think of in your life
  2. Try to be gentle, kind, peaceful toward others
  3. Pray
  4. Repeat steps 1-3
Here's the way the Apostle Paul put it:
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 everything, 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.
~ Philippians 4:4-7

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