PEACE, we're generally taught, is the hostage of circumstance. So often contentment seems denied us until some situation adjusts and gives us permission to feel satisfied. But the whole thrust of Christ Jesus' teaching is directed toward precisely the opposite view, to the fact that genuine peace need never be postponed, that it's never contingent on external events but is the inevitable consequence of realizing the ever-presence of God and of His saving power, the Christ. The world says we can experience peace only when certain conditions are fulfilled--when a child stops being so willful, when a certain college admits us, when our car finally gets fixed. But this kind of peace always carries with it a threat: if peace is determined by fragile circumstances, it can be instantly withdrawn when those circumstances alter. Jesus, however, promised peace of a wholly different order. He recognized this quality as inherent in a God-bestowed altitude of perception he termed ``the kingdom of God.'' This kingdom is not a place or a future state, but a condition he declared was a present fact. ``The kingdom of God is at hand,''1 he taught. And, ``The kingdom of God is within you''2-- within consciousness. Referring to this latter statement, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``This spiritual consciousness is therefore a present possibility.''3
The Apostle Paul points to some of the qualities that make up this kingdom when he writes, ``The kingdom of God is ...righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.''4
Righteousness, peace, joy. Can't the list be properly expanded to include many more qualities: purity, freedom, love, satisfaction, beauty? Seeking the mental kingdom that includes these qualities isn't the province of mystics and ascetics absorbed in the otherworldly. Referring to the most basic necessities of human existence--food and clothing--Jesus told his followers, ``Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.''5 Seeking the kingdom, then, is primary. It's not a luxury, not something we investigate when the so-called ``basics'' have been attended to. Finding it precedes having whatever is right and necessary. I recently flew to a very distant part of Canada to take part in a cross-country ski marathon. After landing, however, I discovered that the bag containing my skis hadn't arrived.
In the past I might have been upset. But I had been giving a great deal of thought to the nature of God's kingdom within and how to go about experiencing more consistently the peace that goes with it. The next morning, in praying about the situation, I realized that to make joy contingent on the whereabouts of a physical object was giving power to a form of matter.
I then thought about what qualities I associated with using these light, well-designed skis: speed, grace, dexterity, freedom, a feeling of being unencumbered. I asked myself, ``Are these properties of a material ski? Don't they, in fact, derive from God, divine Mind, as much as joy, peace, and holiness?''
I decided they did and that regardless of whether the skis ever turned up, my experience could not lack these qualities-- not if I recognized where they were coming from. And this right to include in my conscious experience only those qualities that are derived from God would be manifested somehow, in some humanly appreciable way.
Well, I wasn't surprised when the telephone rang several hours later and I learned that my skis had been found. No one at the airport seemed sure when they had arrived or what the difficulty had been. I carried the lesson into the race itself. Though the course conditions were often atrocious, I clung to the fact that the joy I find in racing is a quality derived from God, not snow.
There's not an area of life that doesn't profit from this cardinal point: Thought determines; it isn't determined by circumstance. And nothing more fully imbues our lives with peace than thought uplifted by an understanding of God.
1Mark 1:15. 2Luke 17:21. 3Science and Health, p. 574. 4Romans 14:17. 5Matthew 6:33. DAILY BIBLE VERSE The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7