“The Peace of Not Being Able to Control Everything”

Wednesday, December 13

Rev. Barbara Callaghan, Minister 

And the peace of God, that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

I’m afraid I cannot say this without saying it bluntly. Increasingly I believe that our ability to find a deeper, abiding peace, is directly proportional to how well we can come to terms with the fact that we will die, and that we have no idea how, when or where. Today could be my last day, as it could be yours. Today could be the day a tree falls as we pass under it, or an unthinkable accident happens, or the diagnosis with no cure comes and the countdown of days begins.

Not a peaceful thought, I know. But our attempts at trying to control all the things we can’t control is what really eats away at any possibility of peace or serenity. Deep and abiding peace, perhaps, look like total abandonment to what life brings that is outside of our control, while living in grounded ways with open hands and hearts in the time that we do have, trusting that ultimately we are God’s.

If I love horseback riding, I shouldn’t avoid it in order to escape possible injury. It also doesn’t mean I shouldn’t wear a helmet, acquire some level of skill, and build rapport with the horse before hopping on and galloping off. Only the reality of the risk need not cause me to deprive myself of something that brings joy.

My mom’s life motto was, “Celebrate life each day.” This was born of the many losses she experienced of family and close friends. She knew grief deeply, and mourning was woven in and out of her contagious joy, most of her life. Her motto was a hard earned truth, born of deep understanding of the beauty that is now.

We have seasons in life when this is really clear. When I worked at a children’s hospice as a counselor I was so in touch with joy and the preciousness of each day. My dying clients were great teachers. They were living as fully as they could and grateful for each moment, even when it was really hard. It was life, and it was beautiful. Whatever time we have here is a gift, best used if we can come to deep acceptance of the fact that the other side of the dash of our lifespan will one day have a date. What lies beyond that we know very little about, other than the hope and promise of union with the Love that transcends the dates between the dash; the Love that is not bound by human time and space.

I am writing this as an intention and a prayer. I am far from achieving the kind of peace, surrender and trust I describe. But may we all find and live what Frederick Buechner describes this way: “… Taking time enough to love our little piece of time without forgetting that we live also beyond time. It is the way of hearing the lives that touch against our lives. It is the way of keeping silence from time to time before the holy mystery of life in this strange world and before the power and grace that surround us in this strange world. It is the way of love” (The Hungering Dark).