*Brian Wilcox. "above & below". Flickr.
I mean "peace" as a spiritual experience, so natural, ironically before even all talk of spiritual or natural, for arising from above or below, as you wish, and certainly before, the appearances we take ourselves to be and others tell us we are. We cannot enjoy true peace from appearances. Peace, then, is not tolerance, which is allowance for other appearances to be appearances, but a deeper knowing and expression of oneness prior to the appearances we appear to be. Peace, then, is the expression of oneness. Peace is through our differences, reminding us we have never been and cannot be separate. We are too close to be separate. Intimacy is our nature. We feel joy when in peace with others, for living peace and being peace is our natural, authentic self, created by and for Love.
above and below
natural harmony, being in-Love
we together share in the Marriage of
wisdom and compassion
* * *
The little, frame, white rural church, Slidell, LA, just outside New Orleans, ... a Sunday night, dark outside and bright inside. Two rows of pews, with center aisle. I was a student, about year 1985, and visiting speaker for a Baptist congregation whose pastor had left. The small building was filled with peaceful, quiet faces, and I was speaking from the uplifted pulpit and behind the lectern, looking down on this scene of gathered reverence.
Suddenly, a voice broke through the quiet attention. A woman stood to my right, about mid-way back. An angry diatribe ensued, while I stood quiet and listening. The other congregants all were quiet and listening. Persons looked at me, as though waiting my response. I had been speaking for about 15 years and had never faced this myself or witnessed it. I had been whispered about and laughed at in worship meetings, but discreetly, not this kind of uproarish display, in private possibly but not publicly, certainly not in the middle of a worship meeting.
I recall this dear woman yelling, "You preachers today don't know what you're talking about!" I had, afterward, no recall of what else she had spoken. I stood unperturbed. The woman, not getting a reaction from me, walked to the aisle and started walking out. To this day I am befuddled somewhat at what came next. I calmly and sincerely, without any feeling of disapproval or judgment of what had occurred, said, "I'm sorry you feel that way." There was no reply, she left.
Later, I was informed this lady had been discontented with happenings in the congregation. Apparently, I was just present when the lid blew off, so to speak, so the congregation said to me.
Surprisingly, also, the congregation had not considered me as a permanent pastor, only to continue as interim until finding a pastor. With this night, that changed, and after meeting later, the search team voiced the change in the people. I was informed the response of kindness the prior week had so impressed the congregation, it requested me to accept its offer of pastor. I declined the offer, not receiving inner peace to accept the pastorate, and continued in the interim role until another clergyperson accepted the call to serve this people.
* * *
That night, I was reminded how our response to potential conflict can impact positively an entire group. A kind response to unkindness speaks loudly, and more vital is the empathy for the other in pain, the suffering that makes it possible, sometimes likely, for one to strike out to harm others. Wedding insight and compassion means this unity of response and identification with another, not as merely an angry person, but a suffering one, and one we share suffering with as like beings.