Saturday, September 08, 2012

Resting In The Storm

"But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow" ( Mark 4:38).

Jesus is at peace in the midst of a storm.  How do we find peace in the midst of the storm?  

I think first, and most importantly, we have to be with Jesus "in the stern."  That is, we have to find the hidden, secret place within ourselves were Christ abides, and there the attention of our heart must be fixed.  When the attention of our heart is drawn out from within us, we are tossed and turned by the instability of all that is manifest in our feelings and in the circumstances around us.  Even if nothing is particularly threatening to us, if our heart's focus is outside us, we will be tormented, tossed and turned, and eventually consumed by worry, fear, anger or any number of passionate feelings that we have taken upon ourselves from what we imagine to be threatening in the lives of others.

One of the things that makes this outward attention of the heart so difficult for us to rein in is that we have been taught by the example of those around us that this worry for others is really love.  That is, we think that to love someone is to be turned over inside, to be frustrated, confused, and to be full of anxiety over the real and/or imagined troubles in the loved one's life.  But that is not love.

We want to love, but we don't know how.  

Certainly loving involves suffering--most of it hidden.  However, there is a self-indulgent suffering, almost like self-flagellation, that has the self at the centre.  The self is perhaps wounded by guilt (if only I had or hadn't done this or that) or the self is wounded with self importance (if only my loved one would listen to me) or some other spiritual wound afflicts the self and allows it to think more highly of its influence in someone's life than it ought to think, to forget that God is God, to assume that my carrying of this person (emotionally, financially, technically, as an advisor, etc.) is what could or could not have saved, or will or will not save this person.  Sometimes worry soothes this wounded self, and we mistakenly call this love.

Yet Jesus loved the disciples even while he slept in the back of the boat.  

Love will certainly require that we give everything, but it is a giving that does not destroy our peace.  This is because the One who loves my loved ones much more than I ever can, abides in me in a peaceful place, hidden, in the stern.  And this Peaceful One is able not only to save me, but also to save those whom I love, or should love, or could have loved better.  Christ saves, and once I accept this, I can actually cooperate with Christ in His saving work.  And the beginning of this cooperation is to attend to Christ in my heart, where there is peace, and to offer my loved ones to God, to let them go into God's gracious care.  And in offering my loved ones to God I also offer my own failures, fears, and hopes: "Let us commend ourselves, and each other, and our whole life to Christ our God."

There is a peaceful place within each of us.  This is where Christ abides.  When the attention of our heart is there, instead of on the storm, then the attention of our heart is on the One who can actually calm the storm.  And that is love.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Father Michael, once again you have written eloquently and to the point. I never cease to be blessed by your work.

Father John