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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lord, Grant us Peace

“You will have peace with my will.”

This was the answer to a recent prayer of mine, and it brought with it a comfort which I did not expect.

One of my favorite verses from the Book of Isaiah is, “O Lord, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done” (Is 26:12).

There are so many times that I find myself struggling to have the right state of mind or heart concerning my accomplishments (or lack thereof). Too often, I find myself feeling dejected and ill-used, unappreciated or underworked, failing in some way or another, and rather unsatisfied with work. Then there are days when I feel so full of pride for the achievement which I have made, however small or large, that I can barely give God the proper credit for his support, grace, and the gifts which he has given to me to use. Where does one strike the proper balance?

This is why this verse of Isaiah brings me so much comfort and peace – because it is a reminder that what is good or great that I have accomplished, it is really by the Lord’s work. And what is evil or a failure that I have done, it is readily forgiven by the Lord, because all of my life and work are subject to him, and he desires my peace and reconciliation.

Further, it also brings with it the peace of realizing that goals that I have set for myself that are not being realized or accomplished may still be yet to come. Some things are not yet in their proper time, even if I would like them to be. Some things require more study, more work, more maturation, more prayer, or perhaps, different circumstances. It is very easy for us to forget, I think, what it feels like when something does come to fruition in its proper time. I know we have these experiences in our memories – those moments when we reach a destination that we have desired to visit, or a friend whom we have desired to spend time with, or an accomplishment that we have finally finished – and we realize just how proper, how perfect all of the timing and circumstances were, to make that moment so good.

A tiny example I can recall is the second time I climbed a specific mountain in Gaming, Austria. I had first made the climb in 2005, and it was a good experience. But I made the climb with friends who I had not known for a very long time, and so the experience ended up being a more internal one. I spent much of the time thinking and reflecting. It was very good. But the second time I climbed that mountain, four years later, I climbed it with a very dear friend. This changed so much of the encounter. The gratitude that I felt in my heart and soul to God for the gift of the beauty that surrounded me was multiplied by the added joy of a dear friend whom I could share the experience with.

In any case, there are going to be many moments in this life when we know the bitterness of disappointment, failure, rejection, etc…when we had hoped for victory, success and acceptance. This happens often with job searches, for example. Other “life-plan” elements such as a person whom we may wish to date, a home we may wish to purchase, a move to a new place that we want to make, etc…may not work out as we had hoped or foreseen.

This leads us to the crux of the issue; do we forsake hope, or find hope to be foolish, and make our own way? Or do we decide to accept what has come to us, and to trust.

Now please do not take this the wrong way, for I am not trying to negate our responsibility in life nor trying to present some idea of fatalism or providence that removes free will and expects us to simply submit until death. That is not how the Lord has revealed himself, and it is not our faith. What our faith does challenge us to, is serious prayer and discernment. There are going to be times when our will is simply not the will of God. We need to acknowledge that. I can certainly attest to times in my past when I have been grasping, like a little toddler, and have demanded that I am given my cookie before I have to eat dinner. Sometimes the Lord allows us to go on in our stubborn wills, so that we learn that his will is not only good, or best, but that it is truly in love for us. Sometimes we are so very attached to what we think is good for us, that we cannot believe that something else might be truly good for us. It is hard to have faith that God really desires our happiness, health and holiness, when we are so confronted by sin, evil, chaos and struggles in life.

We can have periods of time, as well, where even when we are sincerely striving to discern the will of God, and to follow him unreservedly, we are not able to gain guidance. There are times when we are challenged to take up our banner and carry it as best we can, even if we cannot see the road ahead of us. Sometimes we have to walk through mists and fog, trusting that the Lord will not allow us to fall over the cliff. Sometimes we are asked to take great risks, to live the Gospel in a radical sense, and we may not be sure of the consequences.

Again, I am not advocating for omission, complacency, lethargy, passiveness or any other form of “God will take care of it – I’m not going to do anything” syndrome. I am advocating for prayer. I am advocating for faith. I am advocating for a belief in God’s goodness, his mercy, his power and his faithfulness. We need only look to the Old Testament to be reminded of how often God’s people were “wandering in the wilderness,” figuratively and literally, without assurance of his will and in contention with their own wills. Yet, God is faithful, and merciful. Jesus Christ has revealed the depths of that faithfulness and mercy, and that is why we can, with faith, place our trust in the Lord.

We have been made members of the Body of Christ at Baptism. We have received the gift of freedom from sins. We have received the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Those Gifts are confirmed in us at our Confirmation, and we can learn to live a life practicing the virtues and seeing the Fruits of the Spirit in our lives. We need to take advantage of the sacramental graces available to us, especially through the Eucharist and through Confession. We need to keep ourselves close to the Lord. If we are working for our spiritual good, our spiritual health and wholeness, we will see how God is guiding us and leading us according to his holy will.

When I prayed the other day, it was in discernment between two things. One, I wanted very much, but could not guarantee. The other, I did not want, but was assured that I could have it. I turned to the Lord and prayed first, “Let your will be done.” Then further, I prayed that I would truly want what the Lord willed, not only be able to submit to it. Then I prayed further, wanting to have peace with my life, because I recognized how blessed it was, and I did not want the discernment of one decision to hang like a cloud over my head.

And it was then that I heard, “You will have peace with my will.” This brought me great freedom and peace! I could feel the Holy Spirit consoling me, and I felt so much gratitude. It was more important for me to know that I could be peaceful in either situation, knowing that the situation would be according to His plan, and therefore, for my good, than to have things go according to what I hoped or desired.

This is what we need to do – try to be like children; children who are matured, and who work hard, and who give the work of their hands to their Father in trust. He has given us everything. He has handed over the works of his hands, the earth and all that is in it, to us. He has entrusted us with families, friends, and many responsibilities. He has done this, knowing that we will fail from time to time. He has done this, also knowing that his grace is sufficient in our weakness.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to be with us, to grant us his peace, to bring us counsel and guidance, and to increase our faith, so that we will be able to pray with the prophet:

“O Lord, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.”

Poetic Last Days: To Ascend

It has been a very long time since I posted something for "Poetic Last Days," and since we are nearing the end of the month, it seemed appropriate to share a poem.

To Ascend

When we begin to truly climb
some hill that before us lies
Not knowing at the top to find
Safe haven or further end

It's not the height that gives us strength
Nor the rock that leads our way
Rather, at the end of the day
Nothing but our will remains

To place the foot once more upon
the path, perhaps unwanted
To push further upwards into mists
Simply, not to cease climbing

This is the moment
here and now
To decide how much courage
Within truly lies

Yet one more moment and
the decision before the eyes again
Press on still, another step
Courage and fortitude must be met

Hope draws the heart to high places
Faith leads the mind in part
Love drives the soul with them
With all, you can ascend

From whence come these three?
Hope, faith and charity
Some secret spring beneath the skin
Some abundance deep within

The glance must first
be to within
Where virtues may be greeted
and found

Then turn the eyes back
to the skies
And once more take up
The road unto the heights