Peace is a rare and precious jewel. It is often hard to find in a world that is so busy, nosy, and unable to rest. Gladly, some people know and understand the rest that comes through a true knowledge of God’s mercy and grace, but even then, the mind and body are easily unsettled and the peace that surpasses all understanding can be easily lost in the noise.
I’ve always tried to find time out to think, pray, enjoy ideas, and at times literally do nothing but stare into the sky. The less I find this time, the more anxious I feel. The remedies for such things are easily obtained, but often challenging to implement. Mainly because I often feel like I have everything under control when I really don’t. My generation thought idle time and hands were the devil’s workshop. And in that philosophy a worldview of hard labor and staying busily rooted deep against any reasonable expectation of resting or enjoyment. We truly felt that if we were not accomplishing something or moving toward a goal, in particular, we were lazy and thus held no value. What a sham!
If that worldview is true, then what do we say about children who play? What are we to think when our bodies or minds begin to age prohibiting our activities? Are we then less valuable? Have we served our purpose and now have none? Many worldviews try to answer these things but they all stand wanting in the end. They fail to provide the point of life.
For Christian culture, purpose is found in what the Scriptures reveal as a greater glory or placing an emphasis on exposing God’s power and purposes in our lives, even in small things, such as how we drink water or put on socks. For the most part, the communities of faith have failed to grasp the simplicity of this and in turn, placed horrible burdens and restrictions, including unbiblical expectations on generations of labored people. Combining these burdens with my work ethic resulted in living under pressure and a bit of terror for the majority of my life. This is truly unnecessary. Sadly, I imposed this worldview on my four adult children. I have been working to undo a lot of these unspoken expectations in them and myself recently.
This subtle error is so invasive that it affects every aspect of life. For nearly fifteen years my family didn’t take vacations unless it partnered with some work-related speaking engagement, training, or conference where I or my wife were teaching. I cannot count the number of times when I would have to take calls and mitigate emergencies while out with my family, even on some anniversary dates with my wife. “Duty calls”, I would think, swallowing the resentment in the name of ‘love’ or ‘calling’. All the while, I didn’t realize that the trade-off was in direct violation of that same love or calling; to my family and true friends.
Even now, as I sit outside and write, it is often frustrating if I allow my mind to become self-centered on the cost of investing in the lives of some people, who just walk away as if they didn’t cash out with the precious and non-renewable gem of my mind, heart, and time; at the cost of my own intimacy and peace at times, and worse, my family. But I know a greater good is at play and a greater purpose is unfolding. So, as wisdom is gained, life is rearranged.
I have read many stories of other advocates, who never truly feel they make a dent in the lives of others, yet, their reward is great. I have done all the whining, crying, bitter angry pity parties that I intend to do and am better off having those events behind me. So, don’t take this essay as even part of that, this is expressing the points so that you, the reader, will learn and glean. So that as you evaluate your own life you don’t wallow in regret and wish things were different, but are able to embrace the fact that where you are is where you are and that is amazing!
God is not in the business of changing the way I act, but He is always at work in molding my mind and in turn, the discipline of thought will produce the wisdom to change everything. That is where I am these days, processing the wisdom that produces the change. Thankfully, the changes I am making are more in line with my faith than ever before. And that is why I write every day, so that I don’t stifle this wisdom and that I may share it with you.
When we let other people and their “new” ways of thinking impact the discipline of true peace-seeking, it becomes difficult to focus on what we know as wise and true. We must hold fast to what we know and not permit anything to take our minds and place them in bondage to other ideals, or worse, rapid behavioral changes. When others insist on changing the way we live it can be destructive, even when the intentions are pure. As this influence grows our worldview is changed without our knowledge. Then we work diligently to share our new-found epiphanies with others who catch the ‘fire’ and burn up instead of growing in thought. The Epistle of James comes to mind here.
We have to be mindful when what we do and hear begins to change who we are and as we give and receive counsel, we need to keep in mind that change needs to be slow and focused, not rash and responsive. Becoming a different person without seeing it can catch us off guard causing us to become someone we don’t like. Or worse we become lost in who we are.
Our identity is not found in the things we like or the friends we have or even the family that blesses us. Our identity is not in our work or calling, or service. Our identity is found in how we see ourselves, personally, and how we think and talk to ourselves. Sometimes the person that we think we are is not even a real person. Sometimes we believe thoughts that directly contradict the truth. We have to remember that ontology always devours psychology. This means that no matter what we think of ourselves, what we truly are in an empirical, scientific, genetic, biological, or spiritual sense is reality. I digress on this point because I don’t have time to expand it.
When I was in middle school I coined a quippy idea, “The truth is the truth no matter what you think the truth is.” I’m sure many philosophers have had this laid bare for centuries, but for a twelve-year-old, it struck me for years. Around the same time, a mentor introduced me to a theme at camp one year. “Attitude is Everything!” I accepted that as truth. It made sense. And I begin to wear that mask of a good attitude and it changed my life.
I thought and acted differently, I had a positive focus and begin to get active in clubs, and social activities. It is during this time that I realized I was an advocate and begin to speak to issues that other people were facing. My spiritual life grew exponentially as I doubled my time in the Bible and desired to have all the answers to anyone’s questions. Yet, these things were not real. They were not the true me. What I accepted as truth and lived as truth was not quite true. While my perception and how I responded to life were important, Attitude was NOT EVERYTHING. And it was not until just a few years ago that I realized I still held to remnants of that mask. That I had no real purpose because who I thought I was, I wasn’t. So, my peace, though in Christ, was often lost in seasons of despair and fear.
All of us will seek to find peace in many things and make a way for ourselves to be bigger than this world. But in the end, we must find the peace that is not of this world. We must find focus and quietness in this life and live with others who desire the same. True Christian living is about having a quiet resolve, no matter the problems, to rest and keep a subtle joy that is often inexpressible as we await what is promised, the truth, the life, and the way to absolute peace. If this is not true, we are to be pitied above all. Yet, many wasted lives are walking around being pressed on all sides to honor some ‘god’ or in the name of some ‘christ’ and their actions and intentions are just dust in the wind.
For me and my house, we will serve the Lord of peace. That’s the journey I am on. If we walk together, we will be at peace together.
In the meantime, take time out. Put down the rake, hang up the apron, turn off the phone, and find time to think. Read the Word and let it soak into your soul. Write what you think and share life with those who love you no matter what they think about what you think about what they think.
What are some things you do to get away each day and find the time? Share them, I’ll compile them all for the rest of us. Monday I will talk about solitude and seven reasons why it’s not only necessary but Biblical. Jesus took time away. You should too.