“I cannot make the universe obey me. I cannot make other people conform to my own whims and fancies. I cannot make even my own body obey me.”
Moments like this are free. Humility allows us to fully enjoy and experience more of them.
There are a million infomercials, motivational speakers, and advertisements that will tell you differently, but this is truth “I cannot make even my own body obey me.”
We can try, we can train, we can spend, but ultimately, we live in a world that we do not control. It might be a drunk driver who hits you, a cancer cell that grows and devours you, or a million other things, yet we can expend a lifetime of energy, money, and time trying to “control” that which we can’t. Influence, maybe, control, no.
Another word for Merton’s illumination is simply “humility”. Humility is always the first step to peace. We step beyond the manic thoughts and ideas that compel us to try and “control” things and we are eventually brought to our knees when we realize that all our vain efforts result in brokenness. It is there we can find the freedom to focus on those things that matter – family, faith, love, our neighbor. Humility allows us to quit worrying, spending time and money on that which is temporal and uncontrollable, and to shift our eyes and heart on those things which last and can’t be taken away.
Many people become consumed trying to avoid pain, disappointment and the road of life that always leads to decay and death. YOU can’t control enough to successfully avoid that. You will have pain. You will grow old and decay. Some will experience complete tragedy and brokenness. Rather than trying to run from it, accept that you cannot overcome it on your own. Give up control, get on your knees, allow love and others to work on you.
I love this quote from Augustine of Hippo. He was the great Christian theologian who lived from 354 to 430. There has never been a better quote on life:
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels”
Saint Augustine of Hippo
And of course when we are down on our knees, we can’t help but look up to God. What we find is not peace in a worldly way, i.e. lack of material problems, but peace in an otherworldly, more permanent way.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
So how do you start this road to humility? Why, you humble yourself.
Get down on your knees and sincerely ask your wife or children to forgive you for something you’ve done but pride has kept you from admitting.
Take the “fun” money and give it to the poor, and don’t tell anyone you did it. If it is only a penny, give a penny.
Look in the mirror and be honest about what you see and who you are.
Still lost? Get down on your knees, and through your tears, ask God to lead you.
Whatever it takes, do it. You will find peace.