Monday, June 14, 2021

Inner Peace Is Not Circumstantial (Solitude Is a Deepening of the Present)

Anderson Gardens
Rockford, Illinois 


"Solitude is not found so much by looking outside the boundaries of your dwelling as by staying within them. Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present; and unless you look for it in the present, you will never find it.
- Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, 262

Years ago a friend of mine whose inner being was tormented  decided to go alone to a cabin in the north woods and spend time with God. He went to an isolated cabin in Canada. The setting was pristine and beautiful. He lasted a couple of days before he came home. He had brought all his inner agitation plus his physical brain with him and couldn't handle it. He could not be alone with himself.

A change of geographical location will not heal the troubled heart. 

The idea that "If I could only be elsewhere, then I'd be better" is a delusion. 

This is good news. If our inner well-being was a function of our outer physical space we would remain forever in bondage unless we travel.

Contentment and peace are not functions of our physical environment or life circumstances. In solitude, where you are right now, God can "deepen the present." 

Jean-Pierre de Caussade, in his classic book The Sacrament of the Present Moment, writes: 

"Divine action cleanses the universe, pervading and flowing over all creatures. Wherever they are it pursues them. It precedes them, accompanies them, follows them. We have only to allow ourselves to be borne along on its tide." (3)

The apostle Paul wrote: 

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil. 4:11-12) 

Inner peace is not circumstantial. The marketing strategies of our world tell us otherwise. The reason is: God is now with you. If you are a Jesus-follower, Christ, the hope of glory, is within you. Christ-in-you is not now in a panic room. He is not agitated. He is not freaking out. His peace is not determined by our situatedness. 

In John 14:27 Jesus instructs his disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." How do we access the peace of Christ? Jesus says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."

As we abide in Christ we gain his peace. This world's pseudo-peace is conditional on our circumstances. The peace that calms the agitated seas of our hearts is conditional on connectedness to Christ. As I abide in Christ, I experience his peace. 

This is fully available now. In the present moment. You won't need move to access it.