March 4, 2011

Peace and Quiet

The older I get, the more I value it—peace and quiet.  Not just a literal quietness but a calm unruffled-ness, an absence of strife… but what is a mother to do?  The kids may get older, the tensions subtler, (or at least not over blocks and toys), but the concerns of a mother only get larger and the necessity of a peaceful heart more pronounced.  I may have been able to quell the conflict of two toddlers forcibly, and even to enforce a measure of peace and quiet in my household but I cannot enforce it in my own heart!

What is a mother to do?

Is it really a mother’s ‘job’ to worry, as a friend jokingly suggested this week?  Is it really inevitable as long as we are living and breathing that we as mothers should bear the quiet strain of anxiety (legitimized as ‘concern’) for our children’s welfare, or our aging parents, or any number of other relationships under our jurisdiction!  What of the peace that defies understanding?

And guilt, that insidious slithering fellow that insinuates itself into my consciousness and strangles peace and contentment… must I live with it?  Whether it be a vague consciousness that I just haven’t ‘measured up’ as a mom and that the kids are suffering for it, or that I ‘really should be doing more’ in one way or another… it strangles peace and puts a damper on joy.  Can I not be freed of it?  Is there no sure-fire formula?  I asked these things of a friend older than I, whom I know lives with these would-be peace-robbers, anxiety and guilt.  Her answer surprised and disturbed me.  A sigh, a resigned shaking of the head, and a ‘not in this lifetime; that’s what Heaven is for’.

Not to be too hard on her, having caught her off guard perhaps and in a moment of weakness, still, this is not an answer I’m willing to settle for.  I want, if not a ‘formula’, at least a strategy, for recognizing and deflecting those things that rob me of peace.  It’s got to entail more than turning down the sub-woofers and background noise in my environment!  (Though there’s a great analogy there waiting to be milled.)

The Word of God invites me to lay hold on a quality of life unlike any that I can naturally know—eternal and abundant.  It promises the unfathomable peace of God will guard my mind as I turn anxiety into prayer and thanksgiving (Phil 4:6,7). I know this verse. My mind can rattle it off.  But my heart is prone to actually turn prayer into an act of worry, like a dog gnawing on a bone till his gums bleed.  I intend to bring my worries and leave them but in the process of opening the ‘can of worms’ I am overcome with the tangle of them and want only to quickly close the can, putting them out of my mind, and go do something else!  Have you had this experience?

This is where I have found it so valuable to be a part of a bigger Body.  There are a few of us women who get together every weekend that we can to enjoy a hike and pray together.  There is something very encouraging about hearing someone else bring your requests to God that makes believing not seem so impossible after all.  Their faith for your situation is a great uplift.   Another outcome of praying with these women has been to learn by example the art of praising God and thanking him as a precursor to presenting requests.  The focus changes.  My ‘can of worms’ is not so big or so bad in light of a great and awesome God who is over all, through all and in all!  And little by little this stronghold of faithlessness in prayer is being torn down, displaced by praise and worship.

I stumbled upon another great help in overcoming my propensity to anxiety and guilt with the coming of this new year.  The idea kept popping up (in blog-land anyway) of choosing a word to be your word for the year.  It could be anything—like, “Yes”, as a reminder to say yes to God and opportunities He would provide.  Someone else chose, “No”, needing to refine their priorities.  I didn’t pay too much attention, as I wasn’t sure I could ever settle on one magic word anyway.  But then tentatively I began to consider the word: “HIS” as one that would do me good to remember all year.  I’m His (referring to God, of course).  His problem.  His work in progress.  His to take care of.  His beloved.  Just, His.  Now I can’t even find in my chaotic journal scribblings the day when that word began to percolate peace into my soul, but it has been a concrete reminder that I’m not in charge of my life (or anybody else’s lives!).  It is a freeing thing to be the slave of a good master.  You are then His responsibility.  Everything you need is His problem, not your own.  There is great peace in knowing this and keeping it at the forefront of my thoughts.

I am working my way through a practical book designed to promote spiritual growth and especially the putting of Scriptural truth in practice.  Being of a bent toward accumulating knowledge at the expense of acting on it, this has been helpful to me.  Each short reading is accompanied by an ‘experiment’, something to put into daily practice.  Today’s reading talks about becoming ‘a person of joy and peace’:

 “The secret to this peace, as great apprentices of Jesus have long known, is being abandoned to God.  Since God is love and is so great, I live beyond harm in his hands.  There is nothing that can happen to me that will not turn out for my good.  Nothing.  Because of this, ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.’ (Is.26:3)” (Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice, p.94)

“Peace and joy are based on confidence in God (faith).  In this confidence, I can abandon myself to God, even die to myself.  As I do these things, striving will cease [sounds like peace to me!] and joy will naturally flow.” (Renovation, p.94)  And this hints at one other implication of surrendering my autonomy to God.  My interests must be for HIS will to be done, not necessarily my own.  I can’t assume that what I want for those I love is precisely what He wants.  For instance, am I prepared to forfeit my desires for their happiness, if trial or loss is part of God’s will for their best good.  Hmm…there is great peace in aligning my desires with God’s and freely welcoming His will to be done in the things that concern me.  On this count I am definitely a work in progress—His work!

What then is a mother to do when she longs for peace and quiet in the throbbing ‘woof’ of life?  I think Paul sums it up pretty well here:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

A song I’m listening to today has these lyrics:
“Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified”

(Altrogge, ‘As Long as You are Glorified’)
There’s peace to be had in such a declaration.  Enjoy the rest of the song here [Click HERE]—a challenge to trust God no matter what the circumstance. He’s always worthy.

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father.” (Col.1:2)

Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation is by Dallas Willard & Jan Johnson, NavPress,2006,185pp.


A Daughter of the King said...

This was a joy to read. It is so interesting to see how God works in our hearts individually while he uses our relationships to work on us collectively. Your pondering this week will be a blessing to my daughter when I share it with her, as it was to me; as your friend's prayers minister to you, so they minister to me. The tapestry wrought by God is truly beautiful!

Linda said...

Yes, this tapestry He's weaves as we all "hold fast to the Head from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God." (Col.2:19 We're all joints in the Body, something I've been thinking about lately. Eph 4. adds: "when each joint is working properly" Thanks for your part in my growth!