Where Peace Begins

     I have already mentioned in this blog that I am rereading some books that I read years ago. One of these is about the woman who inspired the title of this blog, Peace Pilgrim. She is remembered for her walk across the country, which began in 1953, wearing a tunic that said, “Peace Pilgrim” on the front and “25,000 miles on Foot for Peace” on the back.  As she walked, she slept wherever she was as night fell, in a field, on a bench or in a home if she were invited. She ate when she was invited to share a meal. She spoke to whomever would listen. She carried no money.

     Her message was this: “When enough of us find inner peace, our institutions will become more peaceful and there will be no more occasions for war.” It was her message of inner peace that first attracted me. I once heard Ernie Larson say, “Hurt people hurt people.” Isn’t this the other side of Peace Pilgrim’s message?  What we are inside is what we bring wherever we go into the world. One could say, “Broken people bring brokenness”, “Violent people bring violence”. Peace said, “If you want friends, you must be friendly. If you want to make peace, you must be peaceful.”

The book doesn’t share many details of her own inner struggle that led to her awakening.  Once she started her work, it was the message that mattered. Here is how she described her spiritual awakening:

“As I look about the world, so much of it impoverished, I became increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while my brothers and sisters were starving. Finally I had to find another way. The turning point came when, in desperation and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, I walked all night through the woods. I came to a moonlit glade and prayed. “I felt a complete willingness, without any reservation, to give my life – to dedicate my life – to service. ‘Please use me!’ I prayed to God. And a great peace came over me.”

I think Peace is talking about surrender. I have had such moments in my life. It is so powerfully expressed in Jesus’ prayer as he faced the most difficult challenge of his life, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

Peace goes on to say about her awakening, “There is a great deal of difference between being willing to give your life, and actually giving your life, and for me fifteen years of preparation and inner seeking lay between.” Those who use the 12 Step Program of Recovery know what this means. After making a decision to turn their will over to God, facing the truth about any harms they have done, alcoholics ask God, as the seventh step prescribes, to remove any shortcomings. Making amends is a big part of recovery, but people in the program will tell you that bending one’s will from self-protections, self-righteousness, self-seeking and all the other selfs toward giving up one’s will to God and caring about the other can be like changing the direction of the Mississippi River. Peace said for her it took fifteen years. I am still working on it but I am learning that turning one’s will over to a Higher Power is a day-by-day decision.

And today is a new day, a good day to renew my commitment to peace. I pray what I often pray in the morning, to love in each encounter I have as the day goes. I probably won’t succeed. The old selfs still pop up now and then, but I am getting better.

May peace find a place in your heart today and may it spread out into your families, your community…and the great HOPE…out into this broken world.

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