In the 1860s, Horatio Spafford
was a successful Chicago lawyer.
He married a young Norwegian woman, Anna Larsen,
and they were blessed with a son and four daughters.
But then, in Spring, 1871,
Spafford invested heavily in Chicago real estate,
only to see his wealth literally go up in smoke
next October in the Great Chicago Fire.
That same year, scarlet fever killed their son.
Spafford sent his wife and daughters by ship
to Europe for a vacation to assuage their grief,
intending to join them
after concluding some business.
Instead, he received a telegram from his wife, Anna,
The ship had sunk and all the children
Spafford immediately boarded another ship
hurrying to Anna’s side.
As it sailed through the waters where their girls were lost,
he put pen to paper and wrote the hymn,
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Jesus said, Peace I leave with you.
My peace I give to you.
I do not give as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Neither let them be afraid.
Each Sunday we say,
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
But the peace of the Lord isn’t easy to grasp.
It’s the peace that Horatio Spafford knew
when he had lost almost all he loved
and yet could say, It is well with my soul.
That is indeed the peace of God which surpasseth
I hope to shed a little light on the peace of Christ.
But first let me say what isn’t.
It isn’t that blissy spacy attitude of cult members
disconnected from real life
and the tears in the nature of things as Virgil put it.
The peace of Christ is a deep current running through
and beneath the inevitable tumult of worldly affairs.
To make any sense of it,
I need to combine the insights of two
great teachers – Roberto Assagioli,
a 20thcentury psychoanalyst,
and Lady Julian of Norwich, a 14thCentury mystic.
Like most analysts, Assagioli said
each of us is made up of different parts.
Subpersonalitieshe called them.
We may have an inner judge, an inner worrier,
an inner party animal, an inner avenger.
The list goes on.
We each have our own distinct cast
playing their roles in our interior dramas.
But Assagioli said we also have something at the Center.
He called it the Core Selfor the Soul.
The Soul, he said, is always serene, always balanced,
always looking on our other parts
with kindness and good humor.
The very nature of the Soul is that peace like a river
runs through it.
Assagioli went on to say something truly remarkable.
Just as each of us has a Soul,
the Cosmos itself has a Soul
looking serenely and compassionately
on everyone and everything,
and each of our Souls is inextricably linked
to that Cosmic Soul.
He might have been reading our Lady Julian.
On May 8, 1373, she had 16 visons.
In one, she saw that each human Soul is bound
to Christ with a bond that cannot be broken.
Any division, she said, cannot be between us and Christ
for our Souls are never apart from Christ.
The breach lies between the other parts of us
and our own Souls.
But how does that breach occur?
We don’t lose our Souls through sin
but through distraction.
We lose our Souls as we might lose our car keys.
We identify so much with one of our subpersonalities,
the judge, the climber, the collector,
the do-gooder knight, the victim,
whichever part of ourselves is most worked up,
that we lose touch with our Center,
our Soul, the heart of our being.
But we can reconnect to our Souls
thorugh prayer, meditation,
liturgy, journaling, or quiet reflection.
When we go to the center, breathe,
remember our deeper Self,
we find the peace of Christ waiting there.
The peace of Christ isn’t a sedative.
It isn’t spiritual anesthesia.
It doesn’t make us numb or blissed out.
Our feelings don’t disappear.
We don’t pretend them away.
We still have our feelings
but our feelings don’t have us.
Instead we step into our Souls
to look on the rest of ourselves,
our subpersonalities if you will,
though the eyes of Jesus
-- not judging them, blaming them,
repressing or amputating them,
but respecting, caring for,
and appreciating each part of ourselves.
Stage director Rose Riordan says,
I never see the characters I direct
as good or bad . . . . They’re living
the only way they know how.
Our Soul sees the rest of our parts that way
and if we let our Soul be the director,
we’ll get a better play.
There is no part of us that hasn’t been
necessary to our survival in this life,
no part that isn’t doing the best it can
with what it’s got to work with.
But there is no part of us
that can handle life’s challenges
unless it’s rooted in the peace of Christ
that he has already implanted
in the center of our being.
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you.
I do not give as the world gives.
The world is a variable place.
Some days are diamonds. Some days are stones.
That’s the life we are here to live.
But running through it and beneath it,
there’s one thing we can always count on,
one spiritual treasure we take to the bank.
The peace of Christ in our hearts is a given.
It doesn’t depend on anything
but Christ being Christ
and he is always Christ.
Whatever (our) lot,
(he has) taught (us) to say,
It is well, it is well with (our) soul(s).