In our hectic lives today peace is often labeled as something that comes to us or that is granted to us. Like a fragile glass ornament that we have to condition our lives and atmosphere around in order to see manifested. But is that biblical? Is that true? Peace is manifested to us through the Holy Spirit just as the other fruits of the Spirit are: love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, self-discipline. Still, even though these are fruits of the Spirit and result from living in the Spirit, they are things that we have to work at and work out. Peace isn’t the absence of turmoil. Peace is rest in mind and body regardless of circumstance. We have to work at walking in love, in joy, in self-discipline. Why do we seem to think it should be any different with peace?
My Graham Cooke interactive journal told me to pick an attribute of God and allow my entire life to line up with that aspect. This wasn’t to simply be an exercise it was to become a lifestyle journey. It was a meditative and reflective journey that could take months or years to complete; one that perhaps I would finish when God penetrated every area of my life with that aspect of himself. (If I can hold still long enough for Him to work!) I could pick any aspect of God that I wanted to for this journey: Majesty, Creator, Beautiful One, King, Lover, Provider, Awesomeness, you name it. If it is part of God’s character then I was given the freedom to align my life with that attribute. I couldn’t wait to jump into this exercise and sat down to pray. I just KNEW I was going to feel led to pick one of the truly “cool” attributes like Creator and then pump out a million crafty creations or something. But no, I got peace. “Are you SURE this is what you want me to look at?” I asked whined during prayer. “Peace is so, so…so boring!”
That was a few months ago and while I’m not yet at the place of believing that Peace is the most exciting attribute of God’s character, I do believe that He is the most peaceful person I have ever met! (If you are a follower of Graham Cooke “God is the Kindest Person I’ve Ever Met” you will get that!) As a matter of fact, I didn’t realize just how much peace was lacking in my life until I started to consciously align each part of my life, mind, and personality with Peace. Peace has become one of the most transforming things in my mind, dealing with past baggage, relationships, and my walk with God.
Circumstances come crashing in like waves on a stormy sea sometimes and to find peace in that moment is something that requires practice. There is an art to being at peace. Remember when Jesus was asleep in the boat during the storm and the disciples thought that he was out of his mind? They thought he was a loon that didn’t care one iota for his or their lives. But Jesus was simply at peace. That sounds so simple but would you be the calm one in a dinghy during a storm? Are you the calm one when life “happens” to you? Wouldn’t you like to be the calm one when the waves are crashing about? It reminds me of countless movies where the hero is always a leader centered in conscience awareness of what is going on around him. Calculating, discerning, but never caught up in the jumble of drama. When a hero acts, it is the right action. A hero moves with pure and unadulterated confidence that he is doing the right thing. A hero takes that moment of crisis to observe what is happening and contemplate; Heroes do so from a place of peace. This can be the difference in whether a climactic battle is won or there is a disheartening defeat.
We are in a battle every day. It doesn’t take a super-religious person to figure that one out. Even those that do not believe in Jesus will agree they are constantly battling to keep their peace in life. But we, as Christians, have the key to help that along. We have the Holy Spirit and we are told by Jesus that he brings us peace. Not a wordly peace, dependent on the absence of turmoil, but an inner calm that always operates from a place of wisdom (not towards it). Sure, I am easily at peace when I’m on the beach under a palm tree with fresh lemon water and a good book. But am I at peace when I am late to work, haven’t eaten breakfast, spilled coffee down my shirt, and realized my cell phone bill is paid late? Am I at peace when there is a relational conflict? Not always!
I’ve found the number one rule to operating in peace is pulling within. When I feel myself begin to be rocked by the circumstances around me, whatever they may be, I pull inward first. Circumstances happen. Someone will say something offensive. Someone else will try to bombard my day with gossip and drama. There may be a phone call that wasn’t expected. Perhaps my doctor did not have good news for me. Maybe an unexpected car repair cost more than I budgeted for. There can be a million and one different circumstances that will rock my world, and when that happens, I pull inside now. I stop. It seems so simple but it can be so hard. Just taking a moment to surrender those circumstances to Jesus is key. Like any recovery group will preach: Recognizing there is a problem is the first step. As soon as I feel in my emotions that something is not quite right I know I need to stop and surrender that to Jesus. I may be in the middle of running out the door and simply decide if I am 30 seconds behind that is ok with me. I close my eyes, I breathe deep, and I pull in.
What next? Just like in Acts 2 I ask “What does this mean and what do I do?” I’ve stopped believing that bad things that happen are blatant attacks from the “enemy” Satan. I started to realize that there is NOTHING that can come to me that has not been filtered through my heavenly Father. So the wrong question to ask is “why am I being attacked?”, and the right question to ask is “what is God doing in this/how will God use this?” What negativity is happening? I can pray for the opposite because that is moving in the opposite spirit. What is my role in this? This may not come to me quickly. Often after taking my brief moment to “pull inside” and center around God and peace I have to move on with my day. But since I did pull in and ask God for peace I can think about this in the back of my mind throughout my day. As I am going along I think about what rocked my world and listen for answers about how to partner with God. Having asked God what the provision is in the circumstances and praying for that to be manifested; now I can seek His heart in my own actions. Perhaps prayer is the only thing required of me. Perhaps there is more. Perhaps praying for money to cover bills will not be all that is required, maybe I will need to find work. Maybe I will need to give a gift to someone as a way to “sow” into the future. What to do? Ask God. He will not be shy about putting things in your heart and mind when you ask him! He loves us and if a circumstance has come to us that rocks our internal world then that means we need to stop and look at it. What can we learn during this time about God?
There have been times where I was in a chaotic place and felt my own boat rock. Not knowing how to find time to pull inside and understand my own emotions, I excused myself to the restroom. There I was able to clearly take a moment to review the circumstances, surrender them to God, and ask “What does this mean and what do I do?” In one situation the Lord was clear “I’m working in their lives, you are done here, go home.” Whatever the reason I was there, the Lord was clear that day he didn’t need me any longer and I was to remove myself from the chaos. This was a great exercise in stepping inside of the Spirit and bringing peace (on earth as it is in heaven) into manifestation as I left.
Through lining my life up with peace I have also stumbled across some very simple things that have happened and left my emotions tattered and battered about. This has required me to take the same actions. Recognizing this and surrendering to God. Pulling in, and asking “what does this mean and what do I do?” A few times I was led to process something from the past. A hospital smell that triggered my emotions to go awry needed to be processed and prayed about. A fear of sharing a swimming lane had me feeling a bit wonkly until I stopped and asked God about it, to which I realized I was afraid of being kicked in my stump (yes it has happened before). Sometimes being and operating in peace is as simple as recognizing (with God) why we feel a certain way.
We can’t control what happens around us all of the time. We can very rarely make demands for peace in our daily lives. Kids scream, spouses have attitudes, people can be selfish. But we can choose peace. “He who dwells in the safety of the Most High will be sheltered” (Ps 91). Notice, one must choose to dwell in that place of the Spirit in order for the benefits to flow. Sharon Shipwash once told me, “Ashly, boundaries are not to keep others out they are to keep you in. Otherwise you will run all over the place like liquefied jello.” This wisdom is a great visual of choosing to operate in peace. We must set boundaries within ourselves so that we retreat to the Spirit of God and to our inner sanctuary regardless of what is happening on the outside. We must, in wisdom, allow God’s view of a situation become our own so that we know what lines must be drawn so that we do not lose our own peace.
Peace is given as a gift from Jesus. But like all beautifully wrapped gifts, we must choose to unwrap it in order to receive it. This takes practice. You do not have to teach a child to be greedy; he already knows that, you have to teach a child to share. Not being swept up in the chaos around us and the drama comes most naturally as our emotions charge ahead and our hearts struggle through the mire and mess; but operating from a place of peace must be practiced and taught.
When God promotes growth in one area, Graham Cooke teaches, we need to upgrade other areas of our lives. Nothing can stay the same when you are growing in the Lord. In aligning my life with peace I quickly came to realize that there were areas of my life that needed to change in order for me to continue in that peace. I needed to pray and seek God in each area of my life that I lost peace. It was a long process but it was one that I found had ripple effects! God placed his finger in my life on Peace, but as I have worked on choosing peace I have increased joy, kindness, patience, self-discipline, and more!
Limiting time with chaotic people was one change needed and painfully implemented. I find chaotic people entertaining sometimes and in a way soothing because I can get lost in their own drama and not think about my own problems. That had to stop. Not freaking out over every bit of yard work and housework that wasn’t done was a must. (In being in an anxious place about my house and yard work I created a restless environment for my husband and he would spend all his spare time working here instead of getting much needed rest and connection time in our marriage.) Mastering some of my food cravings became a critical part of me living in peace. I could not run to the store or a restaurant when I had a craving for a meal (no matter how busy or tired I was) because that was robbing my peace. I had to choose healthy intake of food which would allow my joints and pain to cease so I could feel more at peace. In making the choice to do without and operate self-discipline over my body (while at first I struggled largely), I ultimately gained peace and felt better physically (with healthy choices) which also generated an even deeper level of peace. A financial budget was implemented in our home so that I would not be robbed of peace each month when paying the bills. I suddenly knew what we had, where it went, and where it needed to go. This returned the fruit of peace!
God is the most Peaceful person I have ever met. He has all the answers! All of the small things that I never thought were affecting my quality of life, when brought in prayer, were taken care of. God didn’t “fix” everything for me; rather He showed me one thing at a time and gave me solutions for those things. The above paragraph seems like small and logical changes that I implemented immediately. Truthfully, each one of those things took days and weeks of working out on my end. I would recognize the lack of peace, write about it, pray about it, think about it, pray about it more, then implement what God laid on my heart to do. Each thing has been an intense journey with God. But all of the “problems” that I mentioned here ultimately taught me so much about God! I no longer hesitate to ask Him to help me with simple problems. I know how incredibly intelligent He is and I want His friendship all the time. He is always chuckling and smiling when I am about to split the ends of my own hair with anxiety! Peace I give to you, he says.
Peace is the attribute that God has his finger on in my life right now. He is in process of upgrading other areas of my life even as I write this. It isn’t over, and I am glad that I haven’t arrived because I am having the time of my life. Sleeping at night comes so easily when you are at peace and know that God has every single thing under control (so you don’t have to). Embracing this process for me has been an upgrade in my life as well. Sometimes I just want to get things over with so badly that I forget that it isn’t about the destination with God, it’s about the journey. We all know the ending. In a blink of an eye we will be changed. But we don’t know the twists and turns we will pass on the way. We don’t know which little houses we will pass, which rolling hills we will drive over, which pastures will contain scenery we will want to ingrain in our minds forever.
While God has my life lining up with Peace, what does He have his finger on in your life? Take a moment and ask Him. Ask God what attribute of His personality He wants to teach you about. What area does he want to cultivate relationship with you in right now? And be ready for the answer…because it will rock your world!