ONE of my favorite works of art is a Winslow Homer sea painting -- an old wooden sailboat under full sail with three boys and a man in it. The sky is rather ominous. The waves are rough, and the sailing conditions less than ideal. Inside the boat the young boys are totally at peace. Sprawled over the bow, sitting on the stern, leaning on the edge, they seem completely unconcerned about the rough conditions. Why? Because there's somebody they trust at the helm. Obviously he's a secure sailor with his eyes fixed on the horizon. All of them are confident that they're moving in the right direction.
This painting reminds me of a deep spiritual fact -- that our peace in life doesn't depend on outward conditions but comes from within. It's based on the constancy of man's relationship to God.
Every day we are pressed into thinking of ourselves in strictly material terms -- as employees or employers, married or single, rich or poor. From this material viewpoint, problems can loom large. But the fundamental spiritual reality is that man is God's child.
Understanding ourselves in spiritual terms means we go deep enough to find the God-established innocence that is untouched by circumstances. This innocence cannot be destroyed. No matter how threatening our situation, we can be at peace if we cherish that innocence, if we know we are being faithful to our highest sense of the moral and spiritual values embodied in the Ten Commandments and in Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. What we're trying to see is that we can live in accord with the values we hold dearest to our hearts; that there is pleasure in goodness; that we are happiest when we love unselfishly.
The deeper peace we desire requires an acknowledgment that God is the very source of man's existence. It grows from an admission of God's fathering and mothering presence in our days. It's the result of striving to live up to our highest sense of right.
Jesus correlated this kind of obedience to love, summarizing the Ten Commandments in two: ``Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.... Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.''1
It has always helped me to think of the Ten Commandments as promises as well as commands -- promises of who we really are and what we include. The Commandments tell us something about our nature as God's children by pointing to what's unnatural in anyone's behavior. They tell us that it's contrary to our true nature to steal, kill, commit adultery. Why? Because the one God, who alone is to be worshiped, is filling us with all we need in order to be satisfied. In truth, our deepest desire is to experience God's nurturing of and caring for us.
Peace based on the constancy of man's relationship to God points us to the reality of life. Accepting our spiritual nature, we feel a more consistent purity in our thoughts and a greater Christly authority to reject the ugly impositions of carnality.
In the words of the Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy:2 ``Spiritual living and blessedness are the only evidences, by which we can recognize true existence and feel the unspeakable peace which comes from an all-absorbing spiritual love.''3
Peace has to do with accepting the reality of our innocence as children of God and admitting the joy that comes from living in accord with that reality.
1Matthew 22:37, 39. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 264.