Let me paraphrase what else Jesus said. “You are dear friends. Materially I have little or nothing to leave you, but I leave with you something the whole world cannot give you and cannot take away unless you allow it. My legacy to you is (shalom) my peace, my solid relationship with my Father and your Father. It is the basis of the strength and serenity in which I have lived my life. It is yours to accept.
There is strength in it for your struggles. There is courage in it for your fears; comfort in it for your pain, joy in it for your fickleness and a love that will not let you go, even when others hate you. It is my “shalom,” He said. “It is not the kind of peace you find in the world but my peace. So let not your hearts be troubled and don’t be afraid.”
What Jesus offered those first disciples can also be yours and mine. It is the possibility through our faith of a relationship in which we can find some solidarity regardless of what is going on in the world around us. Not only can we see the evidence of this gift in the lives of the disciples; I have been blessed to see it in the lives of many whose peace and serenity have made the difference for me in my life; and they found it where Jesus told His first disciples such serenity and peace could be found.
As I have studied the lives of Jesus, the disciples of Jesus, and these modern day followers of Jesus, there are some things they have in common which may be helpful to you. First, the person who reflect a serenity of spirit are persons who are at home or at peace with themselves. They have contentment about their being who they are, where they are, and in what they are doing. Notice, I did not say they were “satisfied” I said “content”. There is more important distinction.
In the wilderness temptation experience of Jesus, the first temptation was to be someone other than who He knew Himself to be so as to impress the world more quickly and to draw the crowds to Him. Jesus responded by saying He knew who He was and why He was in the world and He would not compromise that to be more popular.
In contrast, one of the prevailing myths of our culture is that the ultimate goal of life is recognition and popularity if you want to be successful. You have heard people say that it doesn’t matter what is written as long as your name is on the front page.
There is a misconception that the aim of life is to be shrewd enough to known what people want or expect before they tell you, and to mold yourself in that image. Rather than cultivating and reflecting the image of God within you. The idea seems to be to make yourself lovely and loveable if you want to be loved; but when the veneer and charm does not work, you feel cheated and cheapened. You feel dehumanized and depressed rather than serene when you listen to the world.
Serenity arises out of a deep sense of the sacredness and infinite worth of your being because you are a precious child of God. It arises out of an awareness and of an acceptance of the reality that we belong only for a while to the world; but we belong ultimately to God. So, as Paul told the Roman Christians, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold. Let God mold you within.
It is in our relationships with God that we can be free of playing the games people play and be at peace with who we are because of those we are.
Second, I have observed that people who reflect a serenity of spirit seem to know what to hold on to and what to turn loose. They keep what is good from the past, live in the present and trust the future.
Like the Apostle Paul, serenity requires that we “lay aside the weights and sins which cling so closely” so we can press on and preserve. The serenity prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous is a good guideline. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can change and wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.
Do you believe in forgiveness – in God’s grace to forgive you and in your capacity to show that grace by forgiving others? It is a good way to let go of bad memories of things which cannot be changed. Can you remember and believe that just because some major honor of achievements are passed that it does not mean that your lie and being has lost its value? Can you still love and laugh?
Third, I have observed that people who reflect serenity and peace have found an anchor which holds no matter how turbulent the waters of life may be; and a stake around which to gather the circumference of their lives no matter how the earth and sands of time may shift around them.
In God Jesus tells us and reveals to us we can meet such a One who is “the same yesterday, today and forever”; who, regardless of what is happening in our lives or in our world is ever willing to be a Presense to us if we will be present to God; who is more willing to listen than we are to pray; who is able to do more than we can even imagine to give us what we need.
Put your ultimate trust anywhere or in anyone else and you will discover how limited it is to produce a lasting peace. Money is helpful but it can be lost or spent. Loved ones and friends are essential to life’s happiness but they are human and can let you down. Education is wonderful but new knowledge obsolete. Put your trust in your job, your position or in what it can do for you but that too can be taken away. Landmarks change. Even new church leaders bring new ideas.
It is in God that we find our constant; our reliable anchor and center which holds. “Put your trust in God”, Jesus said “and you can know my peace” ; a peace which Paul discovered and calls, “the peace that passes all understanding” which can keep your hearts and minds. Let me conclude with this familiar parable.
“One night I had a dream, I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belong to the Lord. The other belonged to me. When the last scene of my life flashed before us I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I also noticed that this happen at the very lowest and saddest times of my life. I questioned the Lord about this. “Lord”, I said, “you said that once I decided to follow you you would walk with me all the way; but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times of my life, there is only one set of footprints. I do not understand why, in the times I needed you most, you were not there. You would leave me.”
“My precious child,” the Lord replied, “I would never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.
Your relationship with God is uniquely your relationship. Value it. Cultivate it. Don’t try to adapt it, to pattern it or to make it like some other. It is yours, you are precious in your in your uniqueness to God. Claim God’s love for you. Be at peace with yourself, with others and thus with God, and serenity will be your gift. The word of the Lord has promised.