I am always in search of peace and I used to think that it was the peace that was illusive but now I find that it is my self that is illusive because what I’ve really been searching for is me—whether I like to admit that or not.
We grow up reading this poetry, “to thine own self be true” and other things that turn us into little narcissists, devoid of any peace but the short-lived satisfaction that ironically comes from others noticing what we think is our true selves.
If it sounds like mental gymnastics, no fear, I’ll show you my bar routine next.
While I was moving to Texas a year and a half ago, I had more peace then I’ve ever known in my life. Strangely, because I didn’t have a home for a month, I’d quit my job, I’d sold all of my things, I was sleeping somewhere different every other night and I didn’t have a plan for life when I got here. And if you’d asked me who I was at all that month, I would have given you a blank stare, replete with glassy eyes.
But the peace, oh the peace.
Moving to Texas was a good decision—except for in Texas, or at least the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, everyone has a smart phone. Back in upstate New York, where I hail from most recently, phones are for calling and texting (though for me they’ve mostly been for voicemail and texting). Here, though, phones are magic. They can do anything and everything and so they do.
I got myself a fancy smart phone about eight months after I moved here, for the GPS, see? Or perhaps because people were always telling me “I tweeted at you about that” or “I’m going to add you as my friend right now, can you accept me [right now?]” and I felt like a man with no arms in a ping-pong competition.
Soon enough I was as enthralled by that little two by four screen as the best of them. It wasn’t the thing itself, as it might be for so many who’ve been reeled in by materialism and consumerism. It was what the thing can do. GPS. Social media. Articles to read, constantly pulled up on my browser. Instant email. Text messaging easier than ever. I still ignored the ringing and let calls go to voicemail—but everything else made life grand.
Last fall I learned that I was no better than a bunch of canines belonging to a man named Pavlov.
If that phone vibrated or jingled or jangled or rang or lit up, my eyes were drawn to it like Ulysses to the island of the Sirens. It wasn’t even that I cared so much what someone was telling me or wanted to be needed by someone or to even feel included. It was really just a reaction. A reflex.
So at the beginning of December I turned off the notifications, turned it to silent, turned off the vibrate. Deleted some apps. And then I waited.
And a funny thing happened. I started to feel an inkling of peace. I began to realize that peace isn’t passive, a washing over of happy thoughts and a lack of conflict. Peace is a decision that I have to make. It’s a choice.
The truth is, I don’t like that.
My theology is sound enough that the magnificent greatness of God eclipses any of my paltry missteps or mistakes, so when I learn that the getting of something is partially dependent on my action, I run the other direction.
I have commitment issues, I know this. And I also don’t like making decisions beyond what’s for dinner and what grade gasoline I put in my car (the former I usually have reasons for, the latter I never do). Locking myself into anything where when the chips fall, they’ll fall on me is terrifying. I abdicate as frequently as possible.
To know that peace inside of me is partially dependent on me making a decision to practice self-control frightens me. Who’s kidding who? I know my soul better than anyone and I know that self-control is the least of my fruits.
You understand why peace eludes me now, I’m sure.
What I understand is that like I said at the beginning of this, what is really eluding me is me.
I am my biggest enemy when it comes to bearing any of the fruits of the spirit. I will fight with logic, laziness, legalism, or licentiousness in an effort to stop bearing fruit. I will indulge my flesh, let my mind run rampant, and meditate on mindless activities—anything to avoid re-centering my heart on Christ and the Gospel.
I want peace, but I don’t want it badly enough to change the way I seek it.
So here’s my aim: for the next few weeks, or months, I’m aiming to choose peace. To put down my phone, close browsers, turn down the volume, flip off the switch, and hear what’s being said in the quietness of my soul in the goodness of the Gospel.
*Photo credit: MDrX