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"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth thee." Isaiah 26:3

Though we rarely discuss it, I believe that virtually everyone in the world wrestles with the question of our own sanity at times, as we struggle to find the right balance between such things as recklessness and paranoia, and shyness and egomania. Virtually everyone has little obsessions (locking doors, germs on door handles, or, in my case, using up leftovers, etc.) as well. Yet the verse above suggests that the way to maintain perfect peace in the midst of all these distracting extremes is just to keep our mind stayed on God.

I am not talking about religion, which, in itself, is often a fertile breeding ground for mental illness. Religious obsessions hardly represent "perfect peace"; but a humble openness to correction from God is quite different from that.

This word "perfect" is interesting in its etymology. Apparently in the days of King James, it did not carry the same mathematical precision that we so often attribute to it today. Instead, it meant something more like a "deep" peace, or a "genuine" peace, or, more often, a "mature" peace. I think of this in contrast to another verse in the Bible that talks about people saying, "Peace! Peace!" when there is no peace. Our experience amongst Quakers was somewhere between the two extremes. Initially, many of us learned a great deal from them and their understanding of peace. But ultimately, it was our fixed dedication to the teachings of Jesus that robbed them of THEIR peace, and caused them to figuratively gnash on us with their teeth.

In its early days, and no doubt in the hearts of isolated individual Quakers today, there was an attitude of deep faith in God which grew into a powerful form of peace, for which they have been legendary. But over the years (at least in Australia), their minds have not "stayed" on God. Instead, they have gradually moved to a place where many seem to assume that their minds ARE God. When that happens, the perfection drains quickly away from the peace that they offer.

Anyway, this is not an article about the Quakers, but rather an attempt to remind us all about the need to keep our minds fixed on God, as we lie spiritually prostrate before him, and ever open to his guidance and correction. Out of that relationship arises a peace which will grow and grow (like the kingdom described by the Prince of Peace) until it fills the whole earth. This mature peace is not a placid escape from the noise and demands of the world, but rather a focus that sees through and beyond to another world that is yet to come, and another Ruler for whose kingdom we pray daily.

Outside of this kingdom of peace, life is little more than varying shades of insanity, as people struggle to hold it together without God's help. Most are able to stay out of institutions and even to stay off medications; but inwardly, I think, as I said at the start of this article, they/we are all struggling. Most struggle to achieve some measure of "respectability", by which society will declare them sane; but others of us have chosen to put our effort into keeping our minds fixed on God. And when we do, we find a "perfect" peace that passes all understanding.

In which direction are you heading?

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