Do you remember what Mother Teresa said about making peace in the world? She said that to make the world a more peaceful place, the thing to do is to go home and love your family.
I think she was on to something. At least that way you’re not out making trouble.
My friend Heather Caliri and I sat down recently to talk about savoring life, focusing on the essentials, and finding peace through the spiritual discipline of parenting, as part of the One Woman’s Yes interview series.
I noticed that I sure do talk a lot about peace for a woman who lives with six children and a small boatload of legos.
Clearly I am not talking about “peace and quiet” here.
But there are lots of ways of having peace.
There’s world peace, and that feels like capital-P Peace, doesn’t it? That’s the important stuff, the impossible-feeling stuff, the huge tangled knot of human ambition and human fears.
Then there’s having peace in our relationships. There’s having peace in our hearts. Those can all feel like a small peace, but — I don’t know, I think there’s a reason we talk about the depths of the human heart.
It’s not such a small thing.
When you practice being loving and kind toward your family, that can’t help but pour out past the walls of your own house. When you raise your children to be people who know how to give love and how to accept love and how to be love for each other, that is not nothing.
I think the little-p peace in our lives matters, and I think we have to pursue it.
Peace does not mean you never have icky feelings. Peace does not mean you nix all conflict and boredom and difficulty and growth and change forever.
Peace is what happens in the face of those things, not only in their absence.
And peace is not control. I know this because we are all called to live in peace, but none of us can control much of anything. I’ve tried, but I’m not the God of the Universe, and I cannot control all the things in it. I’m not supposed to, I don’t have to, and the world will keep turning without my help.
But still there’s this: as far as it depends upon me, I can live at peace. (“As far” is not a very big distance.)
So what does that mean, then?
It means I start here.
If I’m doing things I wasn’t made to do, I don’t have peace.
If I’m trying to be someone I’m not, I don’t have peace. If I’m taking on identities and activities and priorities that are not my own, I don’t have peace.
If I’m comparing and trying to measure up: no peace.
If I’m hiding who I really am and what I really think: no peace.
But when I remember who I was made to be, when I practice being that person, I move back toward peace.
When I remember who I am, I remember that I am not anyone else, and everyone else is not me, and we don’t have to agree on everything to live at peace with one another.
When I remember about having a purpose — for my life, for my family, for this season, for this space — I can let go of everything else and have more peace.
I can surrender to what is. I can accept this moment, just as it is, and find peace there. It’s surrender, but it’s an active kind of surrender, because peace is an active thing.
And if you’re actively creating peace in your heart, you’re not going to bring conflict into the world.
You’re going to bring compassion.
You’re going to bring empathy.
You’re going to walk around with an awareness of the full humanity of all the other people breathing on this planet, and you’re going to move toward justice and dignity for each of those people.
One thing leads to the other. Peace-keeping in your heart and peace-bringing in the world: they go together.
That’s what I mean about peace.
Not that you have to be working on an international stage, and not that your house has to be a serene meditation zone at all times.
Only this: that you remember who you are, and what purposes you’re about, and you let go of the rest.
Make peace in your heart, and bring it into the world.