The faithful struggle, we are coming to realize, is ongoing. It is not what we engage in until we get an answer and then let go of the struggle. God’s ways, the unfolding of His purposes in everyday life is organic. It is like a plant. The next growth emerges out of the previous growth not in packets with empty space in between, but in an unceasing development.
Oh yeah… There is that word “unceasing.” Seems to me that St. Paul uses it to speak our life of prayer. Prayer is not something we do and then stop and then do again later with empty space in between. It is unceasing. Why? Because it is all about union with the unceasing work of God. So, our faithful struggle, our pressing forward, leaning into the Way over against all of the repetitive patterns of the “false self” — death, is unceasing.
Here is where a whole other issue arises. Definitions and preconceived notions about words like “peace” and “rest” that we have acquired do not fit into this paradigm of The Way. It all sounds very contradictory. Is not peace and rest the absence of struggle and striving?? Well yes, according to the Holy Tradition, there will come a time when our current context of struggle will end. The warfare will end, the striving cease, the tears wiped away, etc. Let me quote a famous hymn from the Episcopal Hymnal:
They cast their nets in Galilee just off the hills of brown;
such happy, simple fisherfolk before the Lord came down.
Contented, peaceful fishermen, before they ever knew
the peace of God that filled their hearts brimful and broke them too.
Young John who trimmed the flapping sail, homeless, in Patmos died.
Peter, who hauled the teeming net, headdown was crucified.
The peace of God it is not peace, but strife closed in the sod,
Yet let us pray for just one thing–the marvelous peace of God.
The peace of God includes struggle as an essential aspect in the context of everyday life in this present darkness. This is the peace in which we struggle (learn) to rejoice about rather than rage against. It is a peace/rest that passes understanding but is not unavailable to us just because we do not understand it. It is Mystery. Practical Mystery.
Learning is a struggle. Letting go of definitions and preconceived notions and our little (and big) re-definitions of truth that make our actions OK in our own minds, is difficult. It is a struggle to maintain a teachable spirit. But, struggle we must.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3.5-6)
Teach me, O Lord, that my attachment to my current definitions of peace and rest deprive me of Your peace and rest. Grant me grace to peacefully and restfully and unceasingly engage in the faithful struggle.