“We are like the weather: now the wind is blowing, a storm is raging, there is thunder and lightning and rain – but then the sun comes out and we feel well. Then another storm comes and so on…” (St. John Kronstadt)
I sat in my car last evening, during a pretty amazing rain storm, and was reading Elder Thaddeus’ book, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives,” when I came across that quote above, in Chapter Twelve – Inner Peace. I found it so perfectly timed for me to be reading this particular chapter, at this particular time. God works through the instruments He provides us – people, places, situations, even things. The Lord prompted me to begin this Lenten journey with a desire to find peace. And the instrument He provided for me was this incredible book. It seems like each time I reach for it, my spirit is waiting for more illumination, poised and ready to grow in faith. And every time I read this book, God speaks to me through His instrument, Elder Thaddeus. My husband is the one who bought it and he originally found the book at a shop we were visiting, looking for a gift for our future daughter-in-law, and an icon for the first home she and our son would share. God lead him to this book and finally brought the book to me; we are blessed.
Today, we had an amazing weather pattern in this area. We had a downpour quite early this morning, around 7am or so. Then we had the most beautiful skies. Within an hour, the sun was gone, and huge, black clouds had moved in, and the wind was howling. Before we knew it, the rain began to pelt the house. It was so loud, we stopped what we were doing and went to the patio – it was hailing! In less than an hour’s time, we were graced with sunny skies and these gorgeous, puffy, while clouds. Well, it’s been about three hours since then and we have seen it all – sunshine, incredible rain, howling winds, flying branches, more rain, and a drop in the temperature to the low 40s; the winds have not let up, yet! This weather prompted me to remember this particular quote by St. John Kronstadt (one of my favorite saints) and to recall my Lenten journey, as well.
I spent some time yesterday going over past posts. It is interesting to see where I was just a few months ago, and where I have journeyed. My experiences have certainly been similar to today’s weather, and to what St. John stated above. In this same chapter, Elder Thaddeus quotes, “St. Isaac the Syrian says, ‘Preserve your inner peace at all costs. Do not trade your inner peace for anything in the world. Make peace with yourself, and heaven and earth will make peace with you.”
Elder Thaddeus further states, “We must always be vigilant. Vigilance and discernment are the things we need. The Lord said to Joshua, son of Nun, ‘Whatever you do, think it over carefully.’ (Joshua 1:8) If at first we believe that what we are about to say will be to someone’s benefit, but then, after we use our discernment, we decide that our words will only hurt the other person, then it is better to remain silent. Everything should be done with discernment. When one uses one’s discernment, then one is also vigilant.” I believe this to be some of the best advice I could hear. So many sayings over the years urge us all to more silence, and I know this has been one of those areas in my life that has always needed work! I am a woman and we tend to gab more often than our male counterparts, but keeping silence instead of jumping in with both feet, can quite often be the better play.
Lent is a time when we take ourselves a further step away from the world around us. We step back from gluttonous behavior in all aspects of our lives…in eating, socializing, media “ingestion,” unhealthy habits, etc. The goal is to replace those things with things that encourage our spiritual life. Elder Thaddeus tells us that, “You should learn to love little things. Always try to be modest and simple in everything. When the soul is mature, God will give it peace. The Lord looks upon us and is pleased when we yearn for His peace. Until such time as the soul is mature enough to receive the Lord, He will only sometimes allow it to see and sense that He is present everywhere and fills all things. These are moments of indescribable joy. But after that, the Lord hides Himself from us once again, in order that we might yearn for Him and seek Him with all our heart.” I think this is what St. John Kronstadt was alluding to in his quote at the start of this post. When we look at the times when we felt further away from the Lord, our lives were in turmoil! The Lord granted me a glimpse of Him one day, and I believe I shared this in an earlier post, but it occurred during a Presanctified Liturgy one year. At the procession with the Presanctified Gifts, as Abouna (Melkite Greek Catholic/Arabic term for “priest,” which means more like Daddy or Papa – it is a term of affection) passed by me carrying the Presanctified Gifts, a corner of his cloak rubbed over me (I was prostrate at the time) and I felt like a jolt of lightning had passed through me. Later on that same week, when Abouna and I were having a chat about something else, he mentioned the moment to me. He had felt that same thing. It reminded us both of the Scripture that said, “But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” When the woman realized that she could not stay hidden, she began to tremble and fell to her knees in front of him. The whole crowd heard her explain why she had touched him and that she had been immediately healed. “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:47-49). It has become, for us both, a moment of sublime faith. And left me wanting more!
God is leading me on an incredible journey and the one thing I can say that is different, is my core. You know how the fitness experts tell us we need to exercise to have a strong core? That is what this feels like. As if I have been doing spiritual exercise to build my inner core, and it is getting stronger. The other day I felt derailed, like my foot had been ensnared by evil and I was being dragged down but today I am feeling pretty good. And I do believe the difference in my growth right now is my inner core, my soul, has been getting stronger. You know what they say? “No pain, no gain”!! I have been tested and I have still felt this inner calm, this peace, that my “bumps in the road” have not shaken. I have felt put upon and lost the quiet I love having inside, but I quickly pray and it is back, again, stronger than ever.
“We must give ourselves over to the Lord. We must commit ourselves and all we have to Him, for He is ever present. He wants us to be quiet and at peace…” Elder Thaddeus