I recently moved out to the country, and it's an enjoyable 40-minute bike ride to the closest city. During these rides, I hear the bells on the sheep and goats that are out grazing, making their own music as they move about. Even as I write this, I can hear the bells as a man takes his goats past our home. It's a gentle picture of peace and trust.
Seeing shepherds with their sheep reminds me of the 23rd Psalm in the Bible, whose subject of God as Shepherd is for countless people one of the most universal metaphors for God's care. It's a celebration of peace for everyone, a prayer of yielding to God's restful shepherding of all His creation.
As the world reels at the effects of the Iraqi war, from events in Abu Ghraib to the continued threat of terrorism, many people across the globe are praying for peace. But the quest for inner peace is also universal. And many people believe that outer and inner peace are closely related.
How does one find inner peace, even amid chaos?
I believe that everyone has the right to inner peace, and that it comes from a deep feeling of oneness with God, Love, and alignment with divine harmony.
One of the words translated as peace in the New Testament comes from a Greek word meaning "to join" or "to set at one again." Often Jesus said to those he healed, "Go in peace." He healed on the basis that no one could ever really lose his or her oneness with God. I believe that Jesus recognized that those in need of healing had temporarily lost sight of their innate peaceful nature and needed to be restored through the understanding of their oneness with God.
To me, Jesus' simple words say that I must go forth and live my life from the standpoint of an unbreakable relationship to God, a relationship of peace that is the natural state of being for me and for everyone.
At one very difficult time in my life, I had to find this peace. All in the same year, my dad died, I had to help my mom move out of the house six months later, and I broke up with a man whom I was considering marrying. Then, at the end of the year, a difficult situation arose at work. I was tired and weak from all the effort. I was clearly not at peace. In my prayers to God, I began to live with a couple of lines from the 23rd Psalm.
The second verse says, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." I remember how radical those words sounded. They almost seemed irresponsible and lazy. But then I saw the idea of effortlessness in them.
Certainly God lives effortlessly and is always telling me that I can live effortlessly with absolute trust in the abundance, rest, and refreshment of His spiritual and mental green pastures and still waters. I felt a real peace in knowing that God was responsible for my life.
Although I couldn't change what had happened, I saw more clearly the peace that was always mine in yielding to God's effortless care. I regained my strength, and the situation at work was resolved.
Mary Baker Eddy, in her most important book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," referred to this psalm in its spiritual sense. She understood the shepherd to be Love and wrote, "[DIVINE LOVE] is my shepherd; I shall not want. [LOVE] maketh me to lie down in green pastures: [LOVE] leadeth me beside the still waters" (page 578). She carried this idea throughout the rest of the psalm, referring in each verse to the shepherd as Love taking care of its flocks.
We do have the right to lie down in green pastures and be led by still waters because Love, our Shepherd, has brought us there.
He shall feed his flock
like a shepherd:
he shall gather the lambs
with his arm, and carry them
in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.