Peace and quiet.

Been quiet for a while, just noodling around, reading other blogs, taking the pressure off myself to be constantly doing, producing, and figuring out. I was helped by the fact that the young ones were off school for two weeks. I did ask God for some peace, because holidays can be tricky, stressful times. And I didn’t want to be overwhelmed by the need to keep them occupied and get work done and not let the house descend into chaos.

Well, He answered.

I have to say that it was a surprisingly peaceful, no, supernaturally peaceful, break. If this peace thing is what I’ve been missing out on for the last couple of decades, then perhaps I’ve been getting back pay because it has been supremely calm and peaceful in my heart, my house and my life for weeks now. Nothing spectacular has changed in our circumstances, but something has been changing in me.

Fellow travellers on the road of self-doubt and second-guessing will know what I’m talking about when I refer to the negative monologue that accompanies me through each day. Harping back to previous mistakes/ embarrassments or opportunities lost, or projecting new ones onto the horizon. Well, it still drones on but for some reason I find myself hearing it from a distance. It’s not an audible voice, but a cast of mind that I have been more aware of and detached from. The writer of a blog I follow wrote out of a depressive episode recently, with amazing insights for both official and closet depressives. I suppose I’m doing the opposite here, writing out of a period of extreme contentment, joy and stability.

Many months ago I heard an old song by Cece Winans called Everlasting Love. The last line, and the refrain, is ‘Know that the peace that comes from above is the same everlasting love..’ I am blessed to be able to say it’s easy for me to accept the notion of God’s love for me because of what he’s done in my own life. But I always thought of peace as a separate piece, so to speak. Peace was dependent on my having all my ducks in a row, behaving perfectly, doing good stuff. Performing. It was something I had to earn, in other words. Once all the work was done, then I could have peace. That’s even harder than trying to keep a house clean and tidy with four children and dog in it. Dream on.

The idea that God’s peace is part of his love, and as such is not a goal to achieve, but a gift to receive and breathe in, began to filter into my anxious thoughts through this song. And in tiny and large ways since, these thoughts have been confirmed. I am learning to increasingly lean into that love and trust it with the weight of my anxieties, ambitions, failures and successes. I have stopped trying to pretend to be other than I am, to appear less weird or eccentric or ‘religious’ or whatever, and I have found myself received by those from whom I expected rejection. I have approached scary situations with a sense of fun that has surprised me, and genuinely seen mistakes as stepping stones to teach me about myself, not gravel in my shoes to hobble my progress. I am taking myself a whole lot less seriously, ironically, by taking myself more seriously. I am taking charge of my emotional responses instead of letting that whining petulant voice have all the fun.

Who knows what will happen when I hit a major setback. Well, I’ll be writing about that too, no doubt. Trouble has come, and it will come again. That is a certainty in every life. But I refuse to miss out on the good parts by dreading what storms may or may not lie ahead. I have decided to learn to be content, like Paul, in good and bad times, in plenty and in want, in health and in sickness. Because God is the same always, and his love will outlast this life.

Assuming the best

Integrity is when the reality matches the impression. When the inside matches the outside.

I need some of that.

I need the impression I mysteriously give to others of being calm, sorted and sure of myself to match how I feel on the inside. Let me correct that. I don’t need it to match how I feel, because that puppy is all over the place. What I need is for the outward impression I give of serenity to match real serenity on the inside. The kind of tranquillity that isn’t dependent on mere feeling.

Ducks and swans glide along but their legs paddle like mad beneath the surface. That’s me, dealing with an endless number of anxieties with no basis in fact. It’s a gift that just keeps on giving, operating across time and space, reaching forward into what could go wrong and back into what did go wrong, what may have gone wrong and what may have actually gone wrong but I didn’t notice. Sometimes I’m tired before I even get out of bed.

However. It does not honour God, or anyone else, to always assume the worst. It ignores and dishonours every good outcome, blessing and peaceful encounter of my life, which I can honestly say is made up more of positives than negatives. I have no right to pessimism or disaster planning. Nothing has ever been prevented by my worrying about it. On the other hand, I have wasted precious mental energy creating scenarios worthy of Hollywood.

Time for some new basic assumptions:

Things are probably okay right now.

Things will probably be okay, if not now, then in the end.

If things are not okay, I will probably be able to deal with it.

If an important thing is not okay and it’s my fault but I didn’t realise or notice at the time, I will discover it and then I will probably be able to deal with it.

And then it will be okay.

Sounds simple to the point of stupid, but perhaps it needs to be. It is possible that the point of believing in a loving God is that I need to actually, erm, believe that He is God, and that He loves me. That if I stop trying to fix things myself, He will help me recognise what’s real, where I’ve messed up and hurt people, and show me how to make things right. He will also help me to recognise and ignore the nonsense, the stuff that just messes with my head and makes me afraid.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 Jn 4 v 18

I know this is more than possible because he’s already done it for me countless times. I just need to remember. And adjust my assumptions.