Stolen Peace30 May 2018
Ten minutes of searching under the couches, on top of cupboards, behind the fridge and in bags has not produced the keys that I desperately need to find so I can get to work. My stress levels soar along with my heart rate, adrenaline and volume of my appeals for help to find my keys. In desperation and borderline panic, I interrogate my family, ‘who stole my keys?’ and I’m met with indifference, confusion and distress. My wife doesn’t seem fazed by the impending disaster, my eldest child is wondering what he’d gain by stealing the keys and my little kids seem a bit disturbed by the chaos I’m causing as I turn the house upside down with a tirade of grunting and crying out loud. I finally discover the keys are in my own coat pocket, run out the door and slump into my car with a mixture of relief, frustration and embarrassment for stealing the peace from my family.
What had been a relatively calm and friendly morning in our home had spiralled into a courtroom where all were presumed guilty until proven innocent, except me. How had that happened? Mother Teresa said ‘if we have no peace it’s because we have forgotten that we belong to each other’ and in that moment of tearing my house apart the focus was entirely on my needs, my stress levels. Deep down, my question of ‘who took my keys’ was a cry for help, but it was received as an attack, an attempt to draw my family into my stressful situation. I felt rejected because it seemed I was alone in my stupor, but why would anyone want to join me in that mess? I’m not suggesting my family has no empathy and are more interested in their rice bubbles and devices than my needs, but in that situation, my wife realised the importance of remaining calm and keeping the boat steady; my kids just enjoyed watching dad have a tantrum.
In his final conversations with the disciples, Jesus grants peace as his gift to his disciples, ‘let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid’ (John 14:27). Don Schwager considers what kind of peace does Christ offer us today? His peace is more than the absence of trouble, losing our keys is inevitable. ‘Peace, indeed, is serenity of mind, tranquillity of soul, simplicity of heart, the bond of love, the fellowship of charity. It removes hatred, settles wars, restrains wrath, tramples on pride, loves the humble, pacifies the discordant and makes enemies agree. For it is pleasing to everyone. It does not seek what belongs to another or consider anything as its own. It teaches people to love because it does not know how to get angry, or to extol itself or become inflated with pride. It is meek and humble to everyone, possessing rest and tranquillity within itself’ (Caesarius of Arles).
Saint Teresa of Calcutta said that we should seek ‘the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; this is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world’. My eruption of anger was not only about the keys going missing but was a result of the build-up of other little stresses that led to that explosion. Teresa suggests a beautiful way to counter this downward spiral, explaining that the ‘the fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace’.
We live in a world trying to steal our peace as soon as we turn into congested traffic and tailgaters; an anxious world that suggests teachers carry guns for peace of mind, take out insurance for pets and upgrade our home security. Pope Francis recently tweeted, ‘Do we really want peace? Then let’s ban all weapons so we don’t have to live in fear of war” highlighting the importance of trust as an antidote to our constant fear and anxiety. Critics would say this is a naive suggestion from the Pontiff, preferring to believe in the fallen nature of man than seeking the good. John Piper explains that ‘our peace will make no sense to the world’ that ‘human understanding cannot produce it, or grasp it because ‘the ultimate reason is that it is not human peace. It is God’s peace’. The peace between Jesus and his Father is now offered to us and we should let nothing steal it.