By McLean Casey
Although this time is stressful and peace might seem far away, I think this is the perfect time to stay embedded in peace in your life or continue the search for it. Throughout my college experience I have learned that peace is my center and I have been able to identify when someone challenges my peace. When this happens I like to say, “someone wrecked my peace.” You might think having made this declaration means that I have the whole “peace thing” figured out, but I can assure you that is far from the case. I can assure you that I am extremely broken and have been through a lot to get to this place. It has taken me a long time to come to this understanding, and I am still not sure I know all the tell-tale signs. I hope some of my experiences can help some of you.
I know that I would not be the person I am today without my family and friends who have really shaped me into the McLean we all know and hopefully love. As far back as I can remember, both sets of grandparents, all of my Aunts and Uncles, and my parents made sure that me, my brother and my cousins went to church, and made all of the sacraments in hopes that we would have a strong relationship with God. I didn’t really have this relationship with God until high school when I found and accepted peace in my life.
In high school, naturally, I joined drama club. This really consumed my life in high school. God had no place in it. Like every kid I bought into the pressures and “fun” that everyone gets into in high school. It was not until the second semester of my junior year, when I made a retreat called TEC or Teens Encounter Christ. TEC become a true God send for me. One of the things that really struck me was when the chaplain of the retreat told us “You are beautifully and wonderfully made, God loves you and so do I.” At the beginning of the weekend, I honestly wasn’t sure if I truly believed that. The turning point for me was on one of the nights of my first TEC weekend four years ago. I went upstairs to the chapel after everyone was asleep and prayed for hours like I had never prayed before. The chapel was so quiet, it was a quiet I had never experienced. My ears were ringing, my heart was racing with joy, and I began to grin wildly. Without realizing it, I accepted peace in that moment in my life because I allowed myself to believe and experience God’s love for me. At this time in my life I didn’t have the words to articulate that I had just discovered my center, but I think reflection is the most beautiful thing about really growing up.
When I came home and back to school after this retreat I made the decision to follow the peace that had just been given to me. This became my mindset for the rest of high school. Once again, I didn’t know I was doing that until a few years later when some very special people came into my life. Unfortunately, following the peace was off-putting to some who had never experienced it before. It strained some of my relationships. As much as this hurt, I am a firm believer that sometimes God puts people in your life for a season and when that season is over they leave. I think this happens for everyone, but for me it really stuck out during the summer before my first year of college and the summer after my freshman year. I found that I grew apart from people that I thought would be in my life forever. To me, “following the peace” meant accepting this reality.
Now we are at the point in my story where I learned the phase “follow the peace.” This was the summer after sophomore year of college when a dear friend invited me on a mission trip to South Dakota. On this trip I met so many amazing people who were filled with so much love and exuded peace everywhere they went. When I asked them about this they said, “You know, I am just following the peace that God has put in my life.” I was not sure what they meant by that. They said, “You know God is peace right? Well the moments when God is bringing you joy in the little moments, that is the peace.” Honestly when they said this to me I did not know what to think. My friends could tell. They said, “Pray about it, God knows what you need.”
My advice to all of you, if you have not experienced or accepted peace in your life, is the same that my friends told me. Pray about it. God knows what you need. Peace always begins in prayer. That is not a coincidence. Jesus says in John’s gospel, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you might have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”