Over the last few blog entries, we have discussed the invitation of allowing our hearts to teach us by noticing our hearts, letting go of judgment, and releasing what we tend to hold on to. Many times this invitation comes to us through our relationships with other people.
Col. 3:15 speaks to this and I am including it from two translations. The Message seems to bring the intention behind the Greek in focus. Looking at the NIV, as well, helps to give us a fuller picture.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. (The Message)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (NIV)
The words “let” and "rule" are from a single Greek word. It is a command to allow this “peace of Christ” to have authority in our hearts. Paul doesn’t tell us to “make” it happen but to “let” it happen or to allow it. Often, we try to be what we think we need to be instead of allowing ourselves to be transformed. As we’ve discussed before, this transformational journey is passive on our part - we allow it, we open ourselves to the process.
The word peace can have a wide array of meanings in our culture. We tend to think of it as the absence of conflict. A Jewish understanding would be toward harmony, wholeness, health. It sounds like being brought together in relationship. This idea opens our understanding of this verse. Maybe it goes beyond the absence of conflict inside us or between us and others. Maybe it includes the invitation to allow what we notice to transform us toward wholeness.
The example of this wholeness is Christ. Paul speaks of the unity of Christ and the Father in Col. 1. This is our example of peace, this place of unity and the self-giving flow of relationship within the triune God. Notice in the NIV version, the peace rules in our own hearts first. The result of living at peace within ourselves impacts our relationship with others.
One picture that has helped me understand the absence of peace is in one of my favorite places, the ceramics lab. Let me invite you to imagine sitting at a wheel with wet clay moving beneath your hands. The feeling of the movement of the clay is a calming sensation.
Centering the clay on the rotating wheel was one of the hardest things for me to learn. When I first started spending time in the lab, my world felt like it was in chaos. I had to learn how to become centered, calm, in order to be in an emotional and physical state to bring that same stillness to the clay.
As the clay rotates with the wheel, you can notice a wobble or dissonance that shows the clay isn’t centered. It’s important to remove any wobble, even if it is barely felt, as the clay is formed into its final piece. A wobble, in the beginning, can quickly become disastrous in the process.
Noticing the wobble takes a stillness or quietness in your body and soul. I discovered that if I closed my eyes and became in tune to the feel of the movement of the clay beneath my hands, I can feel even slight wobbles. Once a wobble becomes noticeable, steps can be taken to completely center the clay.
This dissonance felt in the clay may be felt inside our own emotional and spiritual journey. I believe this is the invitation to allow the peace of Christ to rule in our hearts. If we become still enough, we can notice a wobble within ourselves. If the wobble is left alone, it can cause disastrous effects in our own lives as well as in the lives of those around us.
In my own personal journey, I have felt that wobble or dissonance sometimes fiercely and sometimes faintly. This dissonance is an invitation to a deepening journey with God. Ignoring it, however faint, can become a place of violence in our lives.
Violence is a place of division, often caused by judgment towards myself, God, or those around me. Through my journey, I have found dissonance is best approached through contemplative prayer. It has become a helpful place to heal the divisions created through much of my life, both in my own inner self and in my relationships with others.
We are invited to bring all of who we are in all our relationships - not more or less to fit perceptions, but all of us. It seems this means noticing our own limitations and strengths, realizing what is or is not ours to bring. This requires humility and, at least for me, realizing our own tendency to push through. It is an invitation to refrain from judging our own strengths and limitations as being either good or bad. It becomes an invitation to notice the emotions that often uncover these places and to allow them to teach us.
Wholeness is about being present in the loving Presence, always. We do this ever so imperfectly. We are not called to do it flawlessly. The invitation is following this openness toward grace for the journey toward more spaciousness inside ourselves. It seems the goal isn’t being at peace but to follow the discovery and release of what isn’t peaceful. This can be a place of awareness that creates a spaciousness in our relationship with God and in that for those around us.
This journey of self-awareness isn’t easy but it is a gentle opening toward greater wholeness and spaciousness in our lives. A prayer I have practiced in this kind of space is The Examen prayer. I will share more about that practice next time. It is a practice that allows us space, without judgment, to discover God’s gaze of whatever we are holding.
Hello, I'm Kathi Gatlin. Thanks for stopping by!