When I read these sites, however, I see folks airing tons of angst, internal conflict, and struggle. We reflect on our lives, and we feel as if there is anything but peace in our hearts. Recently, a dear new friend quipped at me on his blog, "You find peace in my life story? Then why do I feel so conflicted most of the time?"
At one point I began to worry a bit, because I have definitely noticed that while I often feel incredible peace, I also am aware of times in my life when my own personal angst-o-meter seems to spike. This occasional sense of struggle was not a regular part of my life before my decision to return to the LDS Community. Is it possible that my life was more peaceful and better without the Mormon Church in it? Is it possible that the Mormon Church is toxic, that anybody who has anything to do with it becomes conflicted and unhappy?
Yet, when I reflect on my life before August 2005 and my life since, I realize that we often use deceptive indicators of peace. I believe that I found peace in my "ex-Mormon" days by avoiding conflict. The conflict was all there, lurking deep in unacknowledged recesses of my soul, only I refused to face certain aspects of my life that would have required me to come to terms with it, to struggle. The Holy Spirit, however, had a different plan for me.
The Holy Spirit's presence in my life was the first taste of real peace I have experienced in a long time. The Spirit essentially said to me, "Here is what real peace is: wholeness. Come and get it." Does the Spirit suddenly "fix" everything for us? Far from it! The Spirit illuminates the problem for us. It shows us where the real conflicts lie, where the undone work is, and then it helps us, guides us, and works with us as we begin to do the real hard work of making peace.
Last Sunday, the opening hymn was "How Firm a Foundation." Read the lyrics of this song when you have a chance (perhaps I will post them later). It is a great lesson in peace and how we achieve it. For some reason, the bishop announced to the congregation that this time he wanted us to sing all seven verses (instead of just the first three, as usual). The fourth verse in particular struck me with great power, and has been lingering with me ever since:
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee, thy deepest distress
And in that moment I realized that every sorrow, every anguish, every pain in my life was sanctified, it was actually a source of the deepest, most profound joy to me. For I had come to face the deep conflicts in my soul, and I had begun to harmonize them, to find wholeness, and to make peace.
And the peace of the Spirit overflowed me.