As far back as I can recall I was on a quest for peace. Ultimately, I think it’s all I’ve ever really wanted here on this earth. I desired it even as a young child and some how attached peace to long walks alone through the field, up along the bubbling brook and precariously wriggling across fallen logs high up over the water where no one could find me. This desire for peace has never left me through the many stages of life and any shift in maintaining it tends to deflate my world.
Being a young mother was a test of maintaining not only peace, but sanity. I can recall fighting for a chance to even go to the bathroom or take a shower myself and often had one child in with me for safety sake and the others on the other side of the door screaming and pounding. At that time, I had been used to very structured time of daily reading, devotions and prayer life prior to those years and had no clue how to go about re-establishing a connection with God in the midst of the noise and constant motion which motherhood totally obliterated. It was not like I could take time out for scheduled reading, prayer or even a walk along the brook anymore. And I grew weary of rebuking myself for it.
That’s when I first started to look outside the box of what I knew about devotions, quiet time and recapturing peace within my being. I set out on a search and had to throw lot of guilt down the drain on preconceived notions and prescribed schedules that I had viewed as a measurement of spiritual health. As I did, I began to savor any fleeting moments in which I would sense God’s presence deeply.
Consequently I began to look for God’s presence in all my moments through out the day. I found peace and devotion while sitting on the park bench, when smelling a flaming red rose and while watching my kids play and viewing them as silhouettes catching lightening bugs as the sun went down. I saw God in the face of that neighbor who never gave up befriending me. I began to snatch these experiences and reflect on them, then fit in prayer and reading when I could, not necessarily how I was taught, and in return I felt a connection with God in a different way. My guilt released and was replaced by newly found freedom.
Then one day my peaceful world shattered and no matter how one prepares spiritually for that or confidently believes they have faith to handle it well, it takes the experience and time to put it to the test. For a good while I could not put the pieces of life back for myself or my family and I craved peace, retreat, and sanctuary of the soul as I became increasingly ill physically. I yearned for a quiet place to run where I didn’t feel trapped by life circumstances. I wanted my predictable life and so called “normal” family back. It was a tall order as circumstance and illness had disrupted all of our equilibrium and as sick as I was I sat for hours outdoors, I’d walk my property line along my yard and gaze endlessly at the field across my home. I’d do anything to escape the inner confines of my house and the recollection of it all. I’ve always been a runner in my mind.
Silly it was. I bought myself a delicate silver peace necklace which my hand habitually clung to. It was as if I attempted to brand myself with peace but anyone who saw me knew my soul and body were a far cry from that necklace’s proclamation to the world.
Fearing for my family, I was back to the business of restoring order and peace in a house full of strife and like never before I came to understand I had to rest in the truth of what peace really meant to me. I was forced to learn it could not be found by escaping to another place–an open place, not even a quiet place. It can’t always be found in health either. Life doesn’t hand us an eraser to wipe up complexities but it does bring to us the gift of a new morning and a chance to just take the next step in blind trust.
Ultimately, I found peace was not a place we live in, but within our hearts. I was awarded the opportunity to re-frame what I’ve always known about the God I believed in, that he is good and that all from his hand is good though may not initially be welcome through human eyes. He is there to connect with in extraordinary ways and I am still learning that if I cannot have that peace and connection restored within myself and God, I can never find it within walls, outside myself or with the larger world where we are called to continue the good.
It started with the Spirit within my spirit and must co-exist through motherhood, chaos, diagnosis’, and loss. While it eluded me, the more I practiced non-traditional times of silence, the more I began to recapture it when I became willing to bring my true self to God and abide with him. I still have times of more structured worship, but unprogrammed worship has taught me that hiding my emotions within myself or in a field rather than casting them to the Light robs my world and the world around me of peace.
I’m not healed physically but I am here and whom I’m meant to be. There is obviously no perfect life or family but one with love, and many a day I still wear my necklace. I know it is completely unnecessary but the beauty of that Asian peace sign has become a comfort, a symbol of empowerment in Christ; it is a reminder of an objective decision I made for healing what could be restored and to recapture and redefine the peace I craved.
Although there is much more to know about Jehovah Rapha, I believe that true peace is not a place, but God within. That peace is every where I could possibly go and in every circumstance. I take it with me in my heart and especially into the noise and confusion of living. This life is fleeting with much to continue learning about the Spirit and peace, but perhaps too there is still time to let the little kid run and play once in a while rather than yearn so desperately for what has already been granted and just accept the offering with open hands and heart.
“.....peace be with you.”