Peace Be With You

dancing-with-godThe doorbell rang and she went to the door for 3 more packages delivered that morning. More of the goodies she’d recently ordered online. She didn’t exactly know which of the stuff this was and she didn’t have time to look inside the boxes just now, so she tossed them into the spare room with the other dozen unopened packages she’d stashed there in the last few days. Right now, she looked at her day’s schedule: ten hours of “nonstop go” ahead of her. She jumped in her car (the latest luxury model) and hit the road. And as she drove, she thought about the next thing she wanted to buy. She bought lots of stuff. She “needed” new clothes (designer labels only) and jewelry and shoes, especially shoes. She had to have the latest. She wished her husband could understand that. She wished he made more money. If he only had a better job, she wouldn’t have to work so hard. If he was more ambitious and aggressive with his business…but she was weary of trying to convince him. Sometimes she thought he really didn’t even know her.

Their kids were doing okay, she thought. But they could always try harder, too. She had always wanted to be a cheerleader and take ballet and piano lessons. So she’d pushed the girls into those activities and made sure they’d taken it seriously. The boys played baseball and football and all the kids were expected to excel in their academics. They had to get into the right schools so they could make the contacts they’d need in order to succeed and find the right career paths and the right spouse to help them. She wished her own parents had pushed her like she was pushing her children. But they had been poor and thought you could get by on love alone. She knew better. They had never given her the things she’d wanted. Which reminded her of that new Marc Jacob’s briefcase she’d seen online and needed to order…

Does this sound like someone you might know?  While the person I’ve described here is a woman, it could just as easily have been portrayed as a man. Perhaps instead of shopping and orchestrating her family’s lives and schedules, he’d be the always-working, mostly-absent businessman whose energies are entirely focused on advancement and achievement–in his career, in the community, in the right sort of country club. In either case, these are driven people who seem to be searching for something, grasping at something that perpetually remains tantalizingly-close and yet always just out of their reach. If either of them would honestly reveal their feelings they might say:  I feel empty. I feel alone. I feel misunderstood and put upon by other people. I’m angry a lot of the time and fly off the handle at little frustrations. I tell people to leave me alone, that I can handle things by myself. But what I mean to say is: I’m lonely. I’m afraid. I’m not “good enough.”  No one would love me if they knew the real me. I have to try harder, work harder, be better. I have to be in control all the time. I’m scared of dying, of getting older, of losing control, and of being at the mercy of other people as I age and become frail.

Some of these thoughts and feelings are shared by most of us at one time or another. But we all know people who are like this who live their lives in a kind of perpetual search for whatever will satisfy their restless hearts. Their wants, which they perceive as needs, rob them of peace and tranquility. Whenever we find ourselves with grasping hands, with neediness in our hearts, our faith must call us back from the allure of the world and the passing things which can never fulfill us. This isn’t because beautiful things are evil. Anything that is beautiful reflects God’s beauty. But we will never be satisfied with the things of the world. Our hearts were made for so much more. We were created to love Him Who first loved us. Only He can give us lasting peace and quiet our seeking neediness.

We encounter Him in the sacraments of His Church where He fills us with His grace. At His altar He gives us the gift of Himself in the Eucharist. In the confessional, He gives us His forgiveness and mercy. The peace of Christ, gained for us on the Holy Cross, is freely given and fully satisfies us. He is the calming of our storm-tossed seas, the fulfilling of what (of Whom) we were made for. No matter how big and fancy our house may be, or how powerful our careers may seem, the peace that surpasses all understanding is only (and forever) found in our relationship with Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:7).

“The fool folds his arms and consumes his own flesh.” —                                                                                        Ecclesiastes 4:5

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