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Peace on Earth

December 29, 2022

As we have reached the pinnacle of the Advent season that focuses on “peace on earth and good will to all”, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to have peace. As someone who has struggled with mental health over the decades, I am never quite sure what “peace” really looks like. Is it a fixed state of being? Is it genuine if it is fragile? How long does a sincere round of peace last? These are the questions that circulate my perplexed mind. I have frequent bouts of peace, but have never been quite sure if they are real, because these moments seem to be so elusive. In my program of recovery, members often share about having peace and joy as though its a fixed trait of their personalities after having their spiritual experiences, and more often than not, I am baffled. I do all the right things and work hard on my daily reprieve, I go to church every week, and I do my best to treat others as I would myself, encapsulating my entire faith, day in and day out, and yet I never feel quite there: in unison with that famous word, serenity.

This, naturally, brings a lot of unwelcomed yet all too familiar feelings, such as shame, fear, and confusion. We don’t shy away from having “outside help” outside of the program, and I have benefited from therapy which changed just about everything for me in the months leading up to the pandemic, but I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’m either missing something, or other people are not being entirely honest about their quality of living. Regardless, neither of those opinions are acceptable to me. Therefore, I continue to meditate on the word “peace”, because I am still not convinced I totally understand this word, and if not, that means I might be doing better than I think.

I love the quote by St. Augustine, that peace is the tranquility of order. Whenever my house is in order, that is when I feel the most contented and relaxed. On a bigger, more communal scale, that order which cultivates peace must be established on righteousness, and not simply people and things working as they “ought”. We can have order, and still have injustices sewn into the fabric which supports that order, which means there can’t really be peace. In my opinion, truth and freedom are two sides of the same coin, and we must all be entitled to these basic necessities of life, before truly having peace. This, I think, is why Jesus offers such a supernatural peace, so that even when we are suffering, we can lay it all down at the foot of the cross, and be calmed by the Wonderful Counsellor.

I choose to therefore understand the word “order” to mean within God’s will. And even when I am at my most anxious, I can feel the support of God cheering me on, telling me to just keep going. When I can release my pride and my ego, and just be in my art and in the presence of those who care about me, I feel the most authentic, coming from a place of freedom, truth, and beauty; that is when I feel the most happy, and that’s when peace tends to show up – when I just let it, no clenching onto it with white knuckles, and with no strings attached.

There is a part of me that suspects that peace is elusive, not because of a mental health concern, but because it is a promise that cannot be fully realized, until we are all free. I think until we believe that our treasures will not ultimately be found in this world, we will continue to struggle with human rights, which are built on the principles of truth that the ruler of this world does not want us to know. Even though I at times question the validity of my peace when it comes, I am convinced that I now know the formula. Most days, that’s enough.

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