April 26, 2020
Jesus said, “When you pray, go to your inner room, close your door, and pray to your God in secret, and your God who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
Jennifer and I have been empty nesters for nearly four years. We enjoy the quiet and space in the parsonage. We can disappear into cob-webbed corners of the house and sink into a good book or a silent prayer. All that changed in the blink of an eye.
In February, my mom moved into our back bedroom. We are so glad she is with us. When the coronavirus hit, our adult children came wandering home. It is so good to have them safely with us. We enjoy meals, conversations, walks, and watching “This Is Us” and the “Wonder Years” on Hulu. Check these shows out if you have not already.
With five adults living in the house though, space is at a premium. We scramble for the comfortable chair to sit in. The last cookie. The shower. We have different views on current events. Whose turn is it to wash the dishes? Tempers flare. Our house is full; there is no room in the inn. Sleep in “heavenly peace? Give me a break.
Jesus says I give you a peace that the world cannot understand but peace is elusive. Five adults living under one roof. Relationships with young children, adult children, supervisors, and employees. Neighbors with barking dogs. Perfect neighbors without eyes to see. Boundary disputes. Bills and debt. Job insecurity. Depression. Loneliness. Water shortages. War. Domestic violence. The coronavirus pandemic. A global economic crisis. Where is peace?
The Dalai Lama writes, “We can never obtain peace in the world if we neglect the inner world and don’t make peace with ourselves. World peace must develop out of inner peace.” John Dear in his transformational book “Living Peace” writes, “If we want to make peace with others, we first need to be at peace with ourselves.” Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, and so many other peacemakers all came to the same conclusion, “Peace begins with each of us.”
Peace. Deep inner peace. Just take a breath or two and breathe peace in and out.
“Peace is a process of repeatedly showing mercy to ourselves, forgiving ourselves, befriending ourselves, accepting ourselves, and loving ourselves,” Dear says. As we learn to accept and love our humanity, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we learn to accept other people’s humanity as well.
Where do we begin to cultivate this inner peace, the peace that surpasses all knowing? We can begin a “life of peace each morning.” Be still and breathe. Be still and breathe. Dear writes, “If we dare enter the solitude of peace, we will discover who we are, each one of us a beloved precious child of the God of peace.”
“When we pray, go to our inner room, close our door, and pray to God in secret,” Jesus tells us. As we learn to sit in sacred silence, the chaos of our minds gradually subsides. We empty our minds to allow God’s peace to move within us and fill us.
Our inner peace grows in solitude, but we often run from it. Why do we resist being alone with ourselves? “Because in solitude, our fears, insecurities, brokenness, hatred, and inner violence easily reveal themselves,” says Dear. But, as we sit by ourselves and breathe, over time we “befriend our fears and anxieties” and feel the peace of God enter our hearts.
Jesus valued solitude. He spent forty days alone in the wilderness. He often went to quiet, lonely places to pray. His time in solitude fed him and allowed him to face the crowds, the sick, and the demands of the people with compassion, patience, and yes, peace.
What if we took this time at home to go into our inner rooms, close the door, and be still? What if we learned to sit in solitude and silence? May we cultivate inner peace. May we sit in solitude each day. May we accept ourselves and in so doing learn to accept others. May we be still and know that God is peace and we are children of peace. May we be peace.
Peace be still,