This is what I want my seven grandchildren to know: that during my time on Earth, the brightest light I have seen has come from within me, when I have been at peace.
Peace brightens me; it brightens the world I see. And there have been occasions when it has opened the door to Heaven and allowed me to visit for a spell.
Peace has also saved me in the everyday world. The storms of change and struggle can be raging all around me, debris flying, dark clouds rolling in and everything out of control. But when I choose peace, I locate the eye of the storm, where calm weather and clear skies prevail. I move forward in ways I cannot when I am caught in the storm. I see a path I cannot see when I’m afraid or stressed. Peace is power. It’s a fiercely gentle power.
Fear is how I lose this power. If fear is my prison, then peace is my prison-break.
There’s a story in the Bible about St. Peter, shackled and imprisoned with two armed guards at the door. An angel appears to him and a moment later Peter is free, standing unchained on the outside of the prison walls, draped in a beautiful robe. For me, the angel is peace.
When I was young, people wiser than me would point out that God sent us here with complete control over one thing and one thing only. It is the power to choose our own way, which is the power to be at peace inside, regardless of what’s happening outside. These wise souls spoke as if this was good news but I felt I had been robbed. The “world,” which is everything I don’t completely control (the economy, the weather, politics, and precarious of all, other people) seemed too hard to effect with something as gentle as peace.
I was mistaken. Eventually, I discovered that shining at the very core of this gentleness was the power of miracles to shift reality. Viktor Frankl said it is the one and only thing that can make an inner triumph of a circumstance as horrible as Auschwitz. He wrote:
“If someone had seen our faces on the journey from Auschwitz to a Bavarian camp as we beheld the mountains of Salzburg with their summits glowing in the sunset through the little barred windows of the cattle car, he would never have believed that those were the faces of men who had given up all hope of life and liberty.”
Only a gift from God could arrange a moment like that in the middle of such deprivation. This thing called peace enables us to see beauty. It is precisely what makes us beautiful.
All I am asked to do is value this most precious and most powerful thing in the world by choosing it every day, all day long. The reward is a bright light coming up from inside dissolving the darkness I thought was on the outside.