Day 12 – Conceiving Peace

Day 12: Conceiving Peace

Ezekiel 34:1-10


The finches came in flocks to our feeders today. Noisily, hungrily they came. The rain has finally stopped after days of downpour, as what was flowing became flood. Whether the birds came because they were famished from days in hiding, weathering the deluge, or whether they came anticipating the freezing starvations to follow, I don’t know.


The way in which our hungers keep us engaged in life is blessing. We ought to bless our hungers. Without hunger we fail to thrive. Without hunger we fail to grow. I imagine our spiritual hungers are something the same. We hunger because our souls long to grow. To grow in Love.


The feeders attracted more than the flock of finches. The squirrel came rummaging soon after dawn. The hawk came with his hunger too, a young hawk, still mottled, looking for easy prey. He alighted on the branch of a tulip tree right above the feeder. Later, I heard the shrill cry of his attack, a call to pay attention. Commotion.


As this display of life, hunger, and death took place outside of my window, I was experiencing my own hunger and terror. For what felt like eternity, but in reality was less than 30 minutes, my heart was overwhelmed with the commotion of dread. In actuality, it had begun before going to bed last evening–  an anxiety, an unknowing whether one whom I cherish was safe– when I had put it deliberately out of my mind to go to sleep, but it awakened in me shortly after rising to pray with the dawn. Still, I ignored it, desiring to dwell in love over here, not in fear over there, to rest in deep trust. Still, for a time I noticed myself simply praying, ‘here i am’ as if calling myself back home to be with what was there, as if calling You to attend to me.


At last the time came when I had to face it, this fear lurking beneath the surface in me, when the call didn’t come, which has become our morning routine. Then it rose to shriek its own call to pay attention as my heart experienced the sharp pain of attack.


The Reality of prayer is not to draw us away from our humanity as something ‘bad’ to some god ‘over there’ that is good, but to draw us more deeply into our humanity to the place where God dwells. To reach that place, we cannot avoid the reality of our human feelings, we must go through them. We must carry them with us to be held and beheld by the deeper Love that is Real, which has birthed us into this place and time, and who calls us to it through those same feelings.


Your sacred text today speaks of selfish shepherds who gorge on the food and the warmth of the fleece while ignoring the needs of the flock. There are sick, injured and weak ones who have not been attended to. Not only that, but the shepherds are brutal and harsh to them, leaving them scattered and prey to predators (wild animals like those we met in the desert with Jesus).


I wonder if that is true within me, if there are parts of me who take care of themselves, eating hungrily the nurture of Love at the expense of the others? Are there parts who clothe themselves in the warmth of Your grace while the weak and the sick are ignored?


As I reflect on my fear from this morning, I notice how I tried to bring my terror to You. In the midst of my fear, I sought You, knowing that You alone could bring peace to my heart. Again and again, I turned to You in my powerlessness, knowing only that You hold it all, pain and sorrow, heartache and suffering, alongside my joy and hope and love.


But I wonder, did I really let You hold the terror or did I try to turn from it? Was there something between it and You, something hoarding the space for itself, something afraid of starving in its own way? Is this a lost one then, a piece I leave out, as unworthy of being seen by the eyes of compassion?


Love, if we are to be whole within You, we must be fully human within you, each part of us able to be present to Love.  Until we allow the weak, the powerless, and the ugly ones in us to be welcomed within the fold, we will never be able to fully Love the whole complex, wounded and weak, frightened and sick human family. Until we are able to be at peace with ourselves—do no violence to self—there will be no peace on earth. First and foremost, we can learn to do no harm to ourselves, for the violence we do to ourselves spills out to do harm to others. The log in our eyes makes the speck in the others look huge.


So, in what ways was I brutal with myself? Sometimes we get lured by the notion that peace means ‘not feeling’ somehow. We imagine it to be some kind of lukewarm place of little passion. We believe that a spiritually mature person, a person of faith, or healed person no longer ‘feels’. (A perennial hazard of the spiritual path is to dissociate or repress our feelings). So when we experience intense feelings such as fear – in ourselves or in others – we mistakenly assume that something is wrong with these feelings and begin to judge them as ‘less than’. We can ‘beat ourselves up’ for not having enough faith or spiritual depth or wisdom or love when we experience fear. (one of my early responses when I couldn’t get the fear ‘under control’ was to denounce myself for having such weak faith). Paradoxically, our fears of being unlovable or unacceptable keep us from bringing our fear to Love. The ‘good’ parts of us hoard all the Love for themselves.


I suppose the part of ourselves, which believes that fear makes us unworthy of Love, kicks that part out from the fold, and makes it prey to the predators, which are quick to pounce on it. Often the first predator to ‘kick in’ when we are feeling powerless will be self-blame. This one in us hungers for some semblance of control, some semblance of safety, and so will take the blame into itself in order to feel that it has some power. The hope is that there is some way to prevent or stop in its tracks the fear-inducing experiences of life. The ‘if-only’ we would’ve (fill in the blank) is another way of saying we were ‘not good enough’. More and more pieces of self, of ‘no-goodness’ are thrown to the wolves when we deny our feelings, or judge ourselves as unworthy. We feel broken somehow. We are scattered, divided, at war.Unwhole.


How to gather these ones in, include them, and welcome them home? Only by gently searching them out, recognizing the cries of their starvation, and opening the heart to include them all in the fold. This is the way the heart grows. Only by including every part, as grace allows, as Christ, the Prince of Peace, allows, as Love allows, can we be made whole, can peace come to the land. Everything belongs.


Our feelings, like our hungers, are gifts through which Love is brought into being. Our feelings inform us, they are messengers from the deeper self that something is wrong or right. They are given to us to notice when we have fallen into smaller heart space, and they are part of the delivery system of Love into Being. Only in being fully, blessedly human, letting ourselves FEEL (for to be human is to be a sentient being), admitting our pain and fear and sorrow alongside our hope and faith and joy (as in ‘admittance’ to the banquet) can we be the blessing we are to be in this place. As soon as I ‘admitted’ to Love that I was scared, as soon as I allowed myself to be human, the Love within me became much bigger than the me who was trying to be ‘in control’ and expanded to embrace it all.


‘When our power to Love, overcomes our love of power, there will be true peace in the world’ (sufi wisdom) How might the heart of humanity, likewise expanded to admit and carry its fears into the heart of Love, be led to peaceful ways of resolution rather than blame and brutality, power and control? Rather than kicking our fears out, pushing them on others, how might embracing them with humility look? We can never acquire world peace until we learn to be peaceful within. We can never stop the violence without until we stop the violence within. The divisiveness of the violent war within is reflected outward. May we Be the peace we long to see.


These are virginal places in us. They have previously been untouched by Love. As it was with Mary when her fear overwhelmed her at the Angel’s appearance (imagine the terror in that!), the power of Love will encompass our fears and make us Love’s own if we let ourselves be humble (human) before it, trust we are worthy, and surrender ourselves completely to being Loved. Imagine what might be conceived in that embrace.

Peace on earth, good will toward men. 


(The thing i am most struck by in this reflection is that the working title was ‘fear’ and in the final draft is ‘conceiving peace’. Yes. That is the truth in so  fewer words!)












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