People who have a close spiritual relationship with Jesus generally enjoy "Inner Peace" when they have reached a certain stage. I write this somewhat from personal experience, but I do not wish to dwell on that too deeply, because we are all still struggling in our relationship with God. Maybe when we're "six feet under," that relationship will come to a different plateau, one we look forward to, but one which often fills people with hesitancy and even horror. Those are the honest people, who realize at a certain point in their lives, that they haven't taken God's Will for them seriously, and also that there is a lot of room for improvement.
I finally re-discovered something I read years and years ago, but had forgotten where (on my hard drive) it was located. That is a number of pointers, or perhaps "benchmarks" is a better word, that were put together by a "Sister of the School Sisters of Notre Dame" - which means that the author wishes to remain anonymous.
1. A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences.
2. An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
3. A loss of interest in judging other people
4. A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others.
5. A loss of interest in conflict.
6. A loss of ability to worry. (This is a very serious symptom).
7. Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
8. Contented feelings of contentedness with others and nature.
9. Frequent attacks of smiling.
10.An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen.
11.An increasing susceptibility to the love extended by others, as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.
Let's look at these definitions. Most people meet new situations in light of their previous experiences. Few people are so spontaneous that they completely trust in God, and feel confident and unafraid to see a new situation as an opportunity for charity and openess. That is because we have a tendency to be suspicious of new things. "What will she think of me?" "Where is this going," and most of all, "is this good for me?" Once you begin to trust in the Lord, such questions are totally unnecessary in our lives. And when that happens we find we have the ability to enjoy each moment.
We meet someone, a stranger, and our minds seek for first impressions of that stranger. He stutters as he greets us. Right away, some will think "Not a perfect person," not necessarily in those words, but certainly into that direction. People have a propensity to negatively judge others. Another example is another stranger, this time a girl meeting a man. As you know, men view women they meet (and perhaps less so, vice versa) with what they believe that person should be from a sexual perspective - that's not wrong, it's natural. Of course, overdoing it, may be another thing. But for the sake of our example, it's enough to make the point that all of us view other people, not only hesitantly, but also with pre-conceived notions. When we form and have experience with a Spiritual life in Christ, we are so filled and busy with that relationship, that we are no longer interested in judging others, interpreting what they are doing, seeking conflict. We simply don't worry. That's not the same thing as "Not caring," however.
Episodes of appreciation happen when we see God's love reflected in the other person, and when we become able to judge no more. We become genuinely happy in just meeting other people, no matter who they are, what they look like, and how they act toward us. That's a beautiful thing. I regret to say, I am not there yet! When someone cuts you off, in traffic, and you can only think of that poor soul who must be in a terrible hurry, without hyperventilating, then perhaps you're on the right path!
I am very content when I am alone (yes, I do enjoy other people!) and nothing adverse is happening, but can we say this, when we're in a crowded room, with lots of hustle and bustle going on, people talking out loud, children running back and forth, and even screaming now and then - it takes an extremely cool head to stay calm in that situation, doesn't it? Seeing in my past monastery experiences, a friar, monk or sister sitting quietly before the Tabernacle, deeply in prayer or contemplation, totally unaware of what is going on around him or her, totally content with the relationship with the Lord that matters at that moment in time, that is contentment par excellence!
Can this happen outside of a friary, convent, monastery or abbey - sure. Two married people (my Mom and Pop, a good example), quietly sitting by the hearth (it was cold in wintertime), in the evening after dinner, one reading a paper, the other knitting something - content in their relationship, totally at ease with each other and with Our Lord. That too, is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, that was many years ago. Now marriages seem to be shorter. Many more sons and daughters come from broken homes. But I can still see Mom and Dad's contentment, a great lesson for me in Faith and Loyalty to each other.
Can modern people be that trusting? I don't see why not, but again, they need to have a healthy and close relationship with Our Lord, to be able to experience the contentment that I do remember from days of old. Lots of smiles follow. We are glad that the other is doing fine. We are in the "now." - What happened a half hour ago, I can't change, and what will happen later, well, who knows? Let it be a surprise, a Grace in itself.
I could try to explain the rest of it, but by now you already know the answer. Given the fact that when we reach 70+ years, we see many friends and acquaintances in the Obituaries prematurely. Death is always premature, isn't it? And we pray for that person that he or she may be, or may shortly be, in Paradise. We don't judge the other person and wonder how he could possibly be going to Heaven with the life he led - because then we're judging, which we shouldn't - and praying for God's mercy and compassion for those who left prematurely, is much better than fretting about something we cannot now nor could ever change. Our relationship with God is a very personal thing - we can only pray that it will go right, but we really cannot change it. So when we get to be 'of age' we realize that time is not limitless and that we could go next. Repent! Put your Spiritual house in order! Then you will find joy that may be with you, forever.
God bless you!
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
February 17, 2012