Almost every summer I escape for just one weekend to New Hampshire. There, good friends make a front room in their lake house available to me. It looks out across the water to pine-clad blue hills. The sunsets are spectacular, and I can sit for hours listening to the sound of the water slapping playfully at the boats. When it's really quiet, I exult in the hauntingly beautiful call of the loons. Perfect music to fall asleep to.
My anticipation of this year's visit was as keen as ever. But at 10 o'clock on the first evening, the peace was still being shattered every few minutes by the growling passage of motorcraft, including a hotel pleasure boat rocking to dance music.
There was respite of a kind between midnight and 7 a.m., and then it all started again! How was I ever going to find the peace of mind to do some writing, or even to hear the kettle whistle its invitation to tea and scones?
"So, if one wants to pray, it has to be done before seven in the morning," I muttered to our hostess. She understood. But bless her heart, she didn't succumb even for a moment to my disillusionment.
"It depends how you pray," she said with a twinkle in her eye.
As I thought further, I was flooded with the reassurance that God promises us abundant peace. In Isaiah we read, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (26:3). I realized that two things are required of us. Our mind, our thought, must be firmly fixed on God - and certainly not on the selfish antics of boaters. And we must trust God to show the way to an inner peace that's beyond the reach of outside disturbance.
I reasoned: Peace is a quality of God, the omnipresent Mind. It is a state of spiritual tranquillity, but not of inactivity. It can't be affected by cars, airplanes, or motorboats. We are made in God's likeness, to reflect this active, spiritual peace. It's part of our being.
Jesus exemplified spiritual peace. He remained inwardly calm in the presence of mental and meteorological storms; stayed undisturbed when hostile opponents sought to destroy him and his message; kept patient when provoked; was compassionate, even when crowds pressed for attention.
For Jesus, even a crown of thorns "was overcrowned with a diadem of duties done," according to Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science. "So," she suggested, "let us meekly meet, mercifully forgive, wisely ponder, and lovingly scan the convulsions of mortal mind, that its sudden sallies may help us, not to a start, but to a tenure of unprecarious joy" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 201).
Inner peace can come when we look to Christ's example and recognize that living in the presence of the divine Mind silences the clamor of disturbed thinking as griping never could. And spiritual peace isn't merely an absence of inner disturbance. It's a state of mind that has a healing effect on outward circumstances as well.
It seems the things that bother us have all sorts of causes that we have no control over. Yet many people have found that when they hold steadfastly to the concept of God as ever present and omnipotent and good, they find less disturbance in their thoughts and less discord in their lives. A firm trust in God's healing power restores true peace, poise, and serenity; and this is not only comforting, but entirely natural and normal.
Not until about 4 o'clock on Saturday afternoon - the lake's busiest day - did I realize I hadn't heard a motorboat for hours. In fact, dozens had whipped past. I had savored several chapters of the Bible, and had prayed for my family, my church, and the world.
Suddenly, I heard a familiar call from down by the dock. I ran out to see several elegant black-and-white heads bobbing in the water - four loons as close as I'd ever seen them. At that moment a motorboat swept toward them. But they looked up without fear, and challenged the boat with firm, clear love calls. How unruffled can one get?
Perhaps I'd got to the same point. On that busy, noisy Saturday I had found the "perfect peace" and "unprecarious joy" I sought - and completed the article you may have just read.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society