By Jeannie Ewing
I was born a restless child and never faltered from my constant busyness into adulthood. The restlessness within was twofold: One, I tended toward generalized anxiety (e.g., fear of everything), and two, I grew up in a household rife with inconstancy and unexpected strife. To their credit, my parents raised my brother and me with rhythm and routine, but my brother’s burgeoning psychological diagnoses during early adolescence hurled the rest of us into a steady stream of uncertainty and panic.
Thus the perpetuation of interior strife – rather than a state of unfaltering tranquility – was born in my heart.
In early adulthood, I chose to control everything in my environment as a feeble attempt to reclaim that lost fruit of the Holy Spirit; or rather, peace was a spiritual fruit that I rarely experienced and yet desperately longed for. I wrongfully assumed that, by organizing and cleaning, rearranging furniture and leaving no room for spontaneity, my life would finally be serene. But the restlessness did not cease within my heart.
Then I became a parent, and God chose motherhood (particularly of daughters with special needs) to pluck me out of that spiritual safety net I had long before woven around my heart. Instead of gradual change, I was thrust into a new life that consisted of never-ending (and often unwelcome) surprises, as well as waves of grief and chaos due to our medically fragile daughter’s needs.
How, then, was interior peace possible, let alone likely, in the midst of such turmoil and mystery?
Blessedly, the Lord has slowly taught me about discovering – and maintaining – that ever-elusive peace for which we all yearn and yet few of us master in this life. I’d like to share those discoveries with you as you keep in mind that I am very much a spiritual novice when it comes to such wisdom.
Create a Life of Order Rather Than Chaos
Remember, God does not exist in chaos, though the enemy does. Our Heavenly Father created the Earth in six days using a gentle pattern. We must model our own lives after this. It does no good for us to constantly chase distractions and diversions, which are the devil’s playground to foster restlessness within us.
Instead of filling our lives with mental and visual clutter, why not begin by decluttering and simplifying? Create a sacred space, and use it. Daily. In our Information Age, it’s crucial that we schedule time for solitude: reflection, supplication, and most especially listening to God with our hearts. God does not speak to us in the thunder or the rustling wind. He speaks to us softly, sometimes barely audibly. And I believe the purpose for this is so that we discipline ourselves to pause, listen, and wait for His response.
And He will respond if we do this.
Stop Planning Every Minute of Your Day
This suggestion seems contrary to the first one, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s not. I’ve found that, while it’s vital to discern the pattern – the rhythm – of our day that keeps us grounded, focused, and centered, it’s equally important to allow ample time for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.
The Holy Spirit moves fluidly and often unexpectedly. If we have every task stuffed into an itemized, digital list in our technological calendars, how can we possibly invite the movement of the Holy Spirit into our hearts?
I realize this is more or less an obvious point, yet few of us actually implement the concept into a daily reality. I’m often traveling from one medical appointment to the next for my daughter, Sarah, so I live on an intense time table (which I loathe). If my mind is fretting about whether I will be punctual for the next therapy session or consultation with a specialist, I lose the opportunity to hear, acknowledge, and respond to the Holy Spirit’s prompting in my heart.
But on the days I somehow step aside from that mentality, I hear God speak resoundingly in ways I could never conjure on my own. He often asks me to do or say something quite radical and certainly outside of my natural environment or comfort zone. But the fruits of such actions are always rich and enlivening, and my entire being is flooded with the “peace that surpasses all understanding”. When I notice these Providential encounters and the results of such, I am more apt to momentarily stop throughout each day and regroup so that I can respond to the Lord, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Try it, and I’m certain your life will be changed, as well as your interior peace.
Allow Jesus to Rest in Your Heart
This suggestion is rather mystical in nature, and yet probably most profound of all the aforementioned points. I base it off of a spiritual gem I discovered, which was released by Sophia Institute Press last summer: When God Is Silent by Luis M. Martinez, a former Archbishop of Mexico City, Mexico (who has since gone to his eternal home).
The crux of this book is that there are times when we seek God’s response to our prayers and questions, yet we are met with His silence instead. And this consequently creates a turbulence of spirit within us, because we assume that we have been forsaken by Him when, in fact, He is only resting within us.
Martinez proffers a novel concept: Why not permit Jesus to sleep in our hearts for as long as He desires? If He chooses to remain silent for a day, a week or perhaps even years, then we must rest in the assurance that He is with us and simply wishes to rest in our love.
So often we approach God in a disposition of receiving from Him rather than giving to Him. It is far more beneficial for our souls that we allow God to prune us in the silent sleeping, to mature our love for Him so that we are always resting in Him as He rests softly in us.
With these few attainable goals, I have exponentially increased my level of interior peace. That’s not to say that my life is graceful or that I never approach uncertainty with fear, because I do. It’s difficult to rid ourselves of that nasty concupiscence, which is precisely why we need salvation.
When the waves of trepidation darken my senses and soul with that gripping terror and the enemy seeks to destroy my inner tranquility, I recall the sleeping Jesus in the boat of my heart and rest along with Him until the current storm washes over us and the waves recede once again.
(reprinted with permission from CatholicExchange.com)
Jeannie Ewing is a writer, speaker, and grief recovery coach. She is the co-author of Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers. Jeannie was featured on National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition and Tony Agnesi’s radio show Finding God’s Grace. She offers her insight from a counselor’s perspective into a variety of topics, including grief, spirituality, and parenting children with special needs. Jeannie resides in northern Indiana with her husband and two daughters, both of whom have special needs. For more information on her professional services, please visit her websites lovealonecreates.com or fromgrief2grace.com.