Advent 2019: Peace Surpassing Understanding

by | Dec 5, 2019

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philipians 4:6-7

This month in daily prayer I am using the devotional guide: Living Well Through Advent: Practicing Peace with All your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength. The call to practice suggests that we aren’t always good at peace-making or even for those who are, with practice comes greater mastery. Like playing scales on a musical instrument, there are building blocks for peacemaking, and levels of peacefulness we can only attain through our practice. 

Several of the entries in Living Well Through Advent suggest specific ways to practice peace: deepening our understanding of peace, moving beyond the mere absence of conflict, taking risks outside our comfort zones, and cultivating a spirit of gratitude. I have good soul work to do in all these areas, and more. 

Yet I also know that the peace of God that surpasses human understanding isn’t something I accomplish through practice. It comes as grace, and my practice is to ask and then to wait for whatever comes. I need that grace, especially when I cannot change the circumstances of my life, or do not see the way forward. I wait for what God alone can do. 

In the reflection for December 1, entitled “Peace Like a River,” the Rev. Laurie Brock reminds us that rivers can be both calm and turbulent: “Rivers move and twist at their rate, carving out paths for millions of years in their changes and shifts. Their waters are red, muddy and clear, sometimes all in the same river.”  I often feel like that river–muddy and clear at the same time, grateful for the gifts of peace when they come and and accepting the mud as the raw materials of life. 

With acceptance, however, comes a different sort of peace. Joan Chittister writes, “There is a light in us that only darkness itself can illuminate. It is the flowing calm that comes over us when we finally surrender to the truth of creation; that there is a God and we are not it. . .Then the clarity of it all is startling. Life is not about us; we are about the project of finding Life. At that moment spiritual vision illuminates all the rest of life. It is that light that shines in darkness.” (Joan Chittister, Between the Dark and the Daylight: Embracing the Contradictions of Life (Image: 2015), 19-20.)

Sometimes I feel anything but peaceful in my time of prayer, and the turbulence inside is my offering. It helps to name it, and then let it be, while I pray for the peace surpassing human understanding.