Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Key to Inner Peace

I've turned a corner. Recent events have precipitated the change. For years, I've been negative. I've struggled unnecessarily. Not 100% of the time, of course. But I've fought this off and on for a long time, much to the detriment of my closest relationships. Recent events have caused me to question a lot about myself and the people I love. Recent events have driven me to my knees.

I've always had some faith. As a child, I was raised in the Catholic Church, and I believed whole heartedly in the Salvation that Jesus brought with His death and resurrection. But I didn't stay strong in that. When bad things happened to my family over two decades ago, I turned away. Not into complete atheism, but I became angry at God. I questioned God's existence, even though I was never able to completely deny it. I developed a love for science. I believed (and still do) that science and faith are not incompatible, and that, if anything, the awe inspired by looking hard at and studying the world could even strengthen faith. But I demanded proof for anything and everything. I demanded proof of believers, and scoffed when they didn't provide it. I denied the entire point of faith, the idea that you believe someone or something without the benefit of proof. If it was backed up by proof, it wouldn't be faith.

Over the years, life has had its ups and downs. When things got bad, I'd pray. Things always got better after that. When things were good, I felt that I should give thanks to God. I always felt that He was looking out for me, no matter how far I strayed. But I never managed to stay the course, to allow faith to develop, to flourish. I viewed myself as a wolf-like person, fierce, but misunderstood, outcast, wrongfully blamed. I began to imagine an absurd picture of a wolf being chased by a lamb.

But it's a good analogy. I'd been running away. I broke with my parents, partially in an effort to learn to make it on my own, to pay my own way and not rely on their help. But I'm also a child of God. And I broke with my heavenly Father, thinking I could do it all myself, without His help.

I became more and more negative. I found myself stuck in a rut of mediocrity - struggling to make ends meet and helping creating a vicious cycle that, in part, drove away the person I've loved more than anyone else in this world. I felt as though I were dying, descending, entering a pit of darkness from which I would never return.

But there was a light, a hope. Faith hadn't died completely. It was still there, smoldering, a tiny ember in my heart that needed a bit of air. I prayed. I wept. I nearly lost my mind. But I got wind to that ember, and it grew. I threw a few little sticks on there and kept building it. I continue to do this every day.

I realized that when I put my trust in God, I don't have any need to worry. In fact, when I get caught up in worry or anger or sadness, I feel as though my faith is weak, and that I'm going against God.

I learned the impact of "self-talk," and how the things you tell yourself can positively or negatively impact how you live your life. I began to recite positive things to myself, repeatedly, whether I was feeling good or bad. I started to fight the negativity. I began telling myself things like "I am strong." "I am happy." "I am cheerful in difficult circumstances." "I can handle any problem." And most importantly - "My problems are small, but my God is big.""The key to inner peace is the Prince of Peace."

I came across random things on the internet that helped me change my perspective. There was the "breakup counselor," whose videos and e-books helped me with some basic Buddhist and psychological techniques to combat, to erase the negative self-image that I had spent so many years unwittingly constructing. There was the televangelist who preaches positivity rather than sin. There was the friend who reached out to me out of pure Christian charity when he got wind that I was having problems. There were others. And there was God. It was as though my feeble show of faith in difficult times was all I needed for God to begin directing me. I was led to the people and ideas that would show me the way.

I began to feel as though my prayers for guidance and forgiveness had begun to make a real turnaround in my soul, and that as my faith got stronger, little by little, new ideas were there. There was suddenly possibility and hope where previously there was none. Gradually, the anxiety, the doubt, the fear, the hopelessness, the anger, the disillusionment are fading. No longer am I crippled with self-doubt and negativity.

I'm going in a new direction.

I'm going towards God.