There’s this song I’ve heard and sung pretty often at church in the last year or so called “Good Good Father.” In the bridge it says this:
Oh it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
Funny thing though: Some months ago, in a season of some depression, I found myself singing “peace so unobtainable” instead of “unexplainable.” Unobtainable just rolled off the tongue — rhymed and everything. It fit in the lyrics and fit in my experience of the human condition at the time. The reality is peace is so often unobtainable.
Then, last week, I found myself singing at last the songwriters’ intended lyric about peace so unexplainable. Because the bout of depression had long since lifted, the sun was shining, the song was soaring. And because I believe the reality in Christ is that peace is mysteriously actually obtainable.
It’s unexplainable perhaps, as the song suggests, but I want to explain a little how I’ve stumbled into some approximation of peace.
Purpose. As psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.'” So why do I live? Why do you live? For what purpose are you living and breathing and adding things to your to-do list today? I believe we can work in ways that serve others. We can practice hobbies in ways that add beauty to the world around us. We can attend to family, friends, and acquaintances in ways that cultivate care for one another. So much easier said than done, I know, but seriously: It’s actions like visiting my grandma in the hospital, going on a mission trip to Belize, or opening my mind and my writing to justice issues like women’s rights that have pulled me out of my own self, into a sense of purpose, and toward a semblance of peace.
People. Blogger Jeremy Clive Huggins has said this: “All the people I love, I trust, I want to be around, all of them answer, with varying volume, ‘yes’ to the following basic question: ‘Will you be there for me?’ I’ve come to believe it’s the question that houses all my other questions, fears, and longings.” And I agree. When questions, fears, and longings pull us from peace, people can push us politely back toward peace by saying “I’ll be there for you.” People — even professional helpers like counselors and pastors — may not have answers per se to our questions, fears, and longings, but anyone — any professional or parent, peer or professor — can say, “I’ll be there for you.”
Practice. Having a sense of purpose and having the support of people does not come from one service trip or one social experience — not one a year and probably not even one a month. We understand that athletic ability comes not from the occasional pick-up soccer game but from practice. And so it is with any lifestyle. I’ve been practicing (with admittedly fluctuating commitment) the actions of regularly showing up both physically and mentally at work, serving at church, carving out pockets of time for writing and reading, praying with and for my housemates, and meditating on a couple of Psalms that my spiritual director has recommended.
Over time, thanks be to God, I swear this kind of practice of pursuing purpose and pursuing people points toward peace. It’s ultimately unexplainable, yes, as the song says. But it’s not unobtainable.