Many years ago, the pastor of my church at that time asked me a question which shocked me. I was truly taken aback and for several moments fumbled for an answer.
“Why are you here (in church)?” he asked.
Well, duh, what a dumb question, I thought to myself. What I think he was really getting at is why am I a believer. The back story to this is that I think he was a bit irritated with my repeated questions about faith. It was a time in my life when I was trying to dig deeper regarding the mystery of it all.
My hesitant answer to his question was simply “Peace”, meaning my faith gives my mind and soul peace. This was just the first thing that popped into my mind. I realize my pastor wasn’t trying to purposely test me, but he took my answer at face value and the conversation ended.
Recently, that little exchange with my pastor came to mind as I thought about life here and now in 2023. Thomas Paine wrote “these are the times that try men’s souls,” as well as women’s, and young people’s. Paine was referring to the time when George Washington’s troops suffered humiliating defeats including the loss of New York City. Today we are not suffering like those troops or the citizens of Ukraine but there’s a different kind of battle going on in our society.
We have all the technical advances that make life more enjoyable, easy and instantaneous. And with those, of course, come the frustrations of malfunctions and fraud which happened to me this morning on my computer. I’m speaking of the ups and downs of life which not even the smartest of computers can repair - issues like guilt and shame that some people carry around, loss due to illness, physically and mentally, or job changes. And there are many challenges for young people, especially girls with concerns about body and self-image, or being a late teen and being away from home for the first time or facing college and independent living choices. Many people have feelings of being alone, isolated, or unseen. With all the belief and non-belief philosophies around us, isn’t it possible that basically we’re all looking for the same thing - love and truth? I’ll add to those hope for the future.
And yes, peace. 90 years into my life, and having just celebrated my birthday in bed with Covid, I ponder the hesitant answer I gave my pastor. Peace, simply peace of heart and soul given through my faith and belief in Jesus, a peace that is beyond all human understanding and that is available to everyone.
I want to be clear. I’m not talking about religion, organized or not, or going to church. This is a personal belief and has nothing to do with joining anything. It’s relationship not religion.
For me, belief, and the peace that comes with it, is an ongoing journey. And like any life journey it has its times of highs and times of questions and doubt. But like the clouds and rain of Seattle that pass, so do the times of doubt. I don’t consider that I have arrived at some pinnacle of spirituality, but more that I’m simply a human lucky enough to have had the opportunity to take part in this journey of faith.
Come to me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. Matthew 11:28-30 paraphrased
That's Jesus, talking to the crowd which followed him, offering peace. Of course, there is another kind of peace – peace between people, nations, tribes, in Congress, and racial peace with justice. Jesus called those who work for peace - blessed. However that is a subject for another day.