By John W. Dorroh
It was early April when my high school physics students—many of them seniors—returned from spring break. With less than two months of school left in their high school careers, the majority of them had formed an unspoken club named “We Aren’t Listening to You Teachers Anymore.” Unfortunately there were lessons to teach and learn, tests to take, and more work to complete. School was far from over. To top it off, it was Monday.
Only a few students gave me eye contact. Instead they convened in small groups, chatting about whatever was on their minds, which surely wasn’t electricity, the topic of Friday’s quiz.
“Class,” I said. “Everyone take your seat so that we can get to work.”
Usually that’s all I had to say. But not today. They continued to have private conversations and be totally relaxed as if they were still on vacation.
I increased my volume a bit. I cleared my throat audibly and said, “Class, give me your attention. We need to get started on today’s activities.” A few students succumbed to my directives but not the majority.
I felt my blood pressure rising. I didn’t want to shout because that was not my style. I walked out into the hall for a few seconds to get a drink of water. Surely they would notice my absence, realize that I was annoyed, and get ready for class.
When I walked back into the room, there was no improvement. I grew angrier by the second. Any inner peace that I may have had evaporated into the air.
A large box of textbooks rested in front of the demonstration table. Totally unplanned, I took a few steps back like a kicker in the first play of a football game, and kicked that heavy box as hard as I could with my right foot. The box moved a few centimeters, but the main bone in my big toe did not. It was Newton’s laws of motion—all three of them—in action.
Paul looked at me and asked, “Hey, Mr. D., did that hurt?”
I looked at Paul and told one of the biggest lies I have ever told. “No, Paul, not a bit.”
At that point the students finally calmed down and got ready for class, albeit rather begrudgingly.
Years later I saw Paul at the local YMCA. With a smile, he asked how my toe was doing. “Much better,” I told him. “Let me show it to you.”
To this day I have a permanent souvenir from lacking peace. My unbridled temper that day caused me to inflict pain upon my body and have a permanently bent toe.
The Source of Peace
Attaining emotional peace can be as elusive as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. Perhaps we mortals try too hard or don’t quite know what it is that we are looking for.
Look around any bookstore and you will see hundreds of titles on “finding inner peace” or “obtaining peace of mind.” Gurus often tell their followers that true peace is found “within” and that only we, ourselves, can find it. Some books describe teas and potions to take and rituals to perform. Others suggest that hypnotism will help us achieve spiritual peace and happiness.
A problem with this kind of advice is that it ignores the source of peace—the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). “Peace” is used in many parts of the world as a greeting and a benediction (Luke 24:36). That being said, what exactly is this often ethereal thing called peace? How can it be obtained?
Contrary to popular belief, peace has little to do with one’s environment. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). He also warned his followers that in this world there will be many troubles (16:33). So peace is found in the presence of God.
All of us—young and old—know the hardships of life. They manifest themselves in a myriad of ways: broken relationships, financial hardships, feeling alone after the death of a loved one, dealing with disease, losing a job. It is a natural human reaction to let our bodies succumb to stress over circumstances that overwhelm us when life presents us with problems.
“I simply don’t know what to do,” said my friend Bonnie when her husband died after complications from a liver transplant. “We have prayed and done everything that we felt in our hearts was right, but things just didn’t work out. I am unable to eat or sleep.”
“My daughter called from jail one night last week,” explained a friend. “She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and I’m at my wit’s end.”
“I’ve got kidney cancer,” another friend told me. “We’re leaving for Texas on Monday for treatment.”
These are true tidbits from the lives of people I know. My own life was riddled with stress last month when I started a new job for a consulting company. I experienced severe itching, bleeding gums, insomnia, nightmares, and an inability to think clearly. And that was in the first week!
God’s Guiding Peace
Here are some things that can help reduce stress in your life and remind you to seek God’s peace:
• Time: It’s important to carve out time each day to pray and seek the Lord. This will help you open up your life to God in ways you didn’t expect.
• Perspective: Look around for others whose situations are worse than yours. Do what you can for those in need.
• Exercise & good food: It doesn’t have to be a strenuous workout at the gym. Research shows that a walk around your neighborhood or simply standing up beside your desk for five minutes each hour can elevate your mood and help to get rid of stress. More fruits and vegetables work wonders for the body and lift your spirit.
• Short-term goals: People who are not spinning their wheels but working toward a goal are more likely to sense peace. Paying off a credit card, losing five pounds, or spending time with friends once a week could be key.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Demonstrating peace dictates that we interact with our fellow humans as God’s Spirit leads us. Kicking a box of books in front of my students certainly did nothing to indicate that I was guided by his peace.
I remember my teacher Ruth Webb whose voice had a calming effect on the entire class. The day John F. Kennedy was shot, she led us in prayer and calmed us down to the point where we could discuss what happened. She broke up potential fights on the playground and treated us like we were her own children. Ruth Webb was a peacemaker.
It is not an easy charge, but by relying upon God we can begin to become the beacons of peace for which we were intended.
John Dorroh is a retired science teacher who splits his time between Highland, Illinois, and Columbus, Mississippi.