By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published January 10, 2019
New Year’s resolutions tend to feature physical improvements, which is why the gyms are so crowded in January and more joggers are thundering through the neighborhood. Dieting programs surge, as people who binged during the holidays realize their new outfits are unusually tight, and they can’t blame the dryer.
There’s nothing wrong with striving for physical health, but the new year is a wonderful time to practice simple steps that will bring us peace and spiritual sanity.
Sometimes we take on gigantic volunteer projects in the new year that may wreck our peace of heart because we really don’t have time for them. In a wonderful book “Searching for and Maintaining Peace,” Jacques Phillippe writes, “If I am not capable of great things, I will not become discouraged, but I will do the small things!”
We can perform at least one good deed each day, no matter how tiny. Let someone get in front of you in line at the grocery store. Let the guy in the next lane merge into your lane without fuming.
Surrender that perfect parking space to the car behind you. Give a panhandler a dollar without getting all tied up in knots about how he’ll spend it. Let someone else eat the last doughnut.
Some people in our own homes need good deeds. When was the last time you sat down on the floor and played with the baby? When was the last time you told your spouse “thank you” for making a delicious meal or raking the leaves? Or told a teenager “I’m proud of you?”
There is a second key to inner calmness that we can practice throughout an ordinary day. Jacques Phillippe suggests “doing each thing well in the present moment without preoccupying myself with what follows.”
If we’ve invited family over for supper, we can prepare the meal without wondering what we’ll do if Uncle Fred insists on playing the football game at an ear-splitting volume or Aunt Laverne tries to sell everyone Tupperware.
If we’re at the Atlanta airport, we can do our best to remain calm when everyone else seems to be fast-forwarding through the crowds. The last time I was there, I definitely had trouble keeping my mind in the present moment, as I joined the gigantic herd of travelers that was stuffed into the “plane train.”
As the train zoomed toward the tunnel, I began imagining how awful things would be if it stalled there. Waves of anxiety flooded over me until I reflected on the Gospel scene where Jesus was asleep in the boat when a big storm came up—which terrified his friends.
The scene highlights how Jesus can calm anything, even a raging storm at sea. If he could do that with the simple words, “Be still!” I realized he can also comfort me, even when my imagination runs wild.
And, yes, we made it through the tunnel unscathed.
Controlling expectations is a third step to spiritual sanity. Do we have a meltdown when the tire goes flat, the toddler pitches a fit, the coffee spills on the couch? Do we expect each day to run smoothly without snags and sorrows? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone!
Many years ago, a friend and I were taking two cats to the veterinarian in his car. We didn’t have carriers, so we naively expected it would be fine for them to roam around freely. The twosome got into a big fight and then one threw up—and we couldn’t open the windows for fear they would escape. The only way through such a debacle is to repeat silently, “Jesus, help!”
Steady yourselves, dear readers, because the year ahead will doubtless feature a few metaphorical storms at sea. And some of our trains may indeed stall in the tunnel of life.
Let’s resolve to strive for inner peace by cherishing Christ’s words: “In the world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.”
Artwork is by Jef Murray (oil painting title “Rescue”). Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.