Sunday, August 25, 2013

Week of Peace: Day 7

Sometimes life feels like one struggle after another. "Why can't I get a break?" people often ask me. "Why can't I just have some peace?"

As we've journeyed through this Week of Peace together, we have found no answers to these questions. The yawning abyss of "why" still lies before us, no matter how many poems or beautiful photos I post. (I pray that these have offered some hope and comfort but I know that alone, they cannot displace the fears and sorrows and angers that life often deals.)

As I've mentioned before, I follow some other spiritual blogs. Just the other day, at one such site, I came across a wonderful quote that made me smile:

 "Stand at the edge of the abyss until you can bear it no longer. Then have a cup of tea." (Elder Sophrony).

Although I am not familiar enough with this Orthodox holy man to know with certainty what he intended, to me this simple line speaks volumes. When we are made to confront some of the most perplexing mysteries of our human existence, we may feel we can bear it no longer.

Rather than forcing ourselves to keep struggling and struggling to find answers, sometimes it is good just to step back and ground ourselves in some normal, calming human experience. Have a cup of tea. Listen to some music. Sit in the sun. Rest.

Peace does not come to us when, by great effort, we discover the answers. Rather, it comes when we accept the questions, the mysteries, with a deep and abiding assurance that all will be well in the end.

It is not ourselves, but the One who lovingly holds us in being who provides this peace, a peace that "surpasses all understanding" (Philippians, 4:7).

As we wrap up our Week of Peace, I thought we might end on a somewhat lighter note, having the "cup of tea", so to speak, that grounds and calms us in the face of so much that we do not understand.

Rodger, my spiritual brother, has shared with us an image of an elephant seal (as well as some inspiration for this post). These very large mammals, with fins and tail to propel them, migrate twice every year from Alaska to California, breeding and molting during their California stays, while eating and building up fat in their northern habitat.

As with my friends the monarch butterflies, something (Someone?) always guides the elephant seals back to the exact same spots, at the exact same times, year after year. No one knows how these creatures know what to do or where to go.

The seal, however, doesn't question the mystery of the Way laid out for him. Living in communion with his Creator, he rests from his journey in utter peace, with complete assurance that, indeed, all will be well...

photo by Rodger, reprinted with permission; editing and text by me.

(This concludes our 7 day Week of Peace. Once again, I will be taking a short break before I move on to the next "holy pause", Grace. Comments and contributions are welcome and may be e-mailed to me at