To help reduce this tension which seems to dominate our people everywhere, you can start by reducing your own pace. To do that you will need to slow down, quiet down. Do not fume. Do not fret. Practice being peaceful. Practice “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) Then note the quiet power sense that wells up within you.
-Norman Vincent Peale
“Chapter 6: Stop Fuming and Fretting”
The Power of Positive Thinking
Up until Peale mentioned “quiet power sense,” he was actually saying just about the first thing that made any sort of sense to me in this entire book thus far.
Peace is a difficult concept to apply universally across a person’s life, mine or anyone else’s. We all want some sort of “peace” but we can’t be totally relaxed and at ease twenty-four hours a day. Frankly, there are times when we really need to be focused, or excited, or agitated, or even angry. But as I was reading this chapter over my lunch hour, I realized that I don’t allow myself a great deal of peace, even when I’m supposedly relaxing. More to the point, I don’t really allow myself the time and the luxury of being at peace in the presence of God.
However, as much as I can argue about the various circumstances in my life and the relative amount of control I do or don’t have over them, I do have some sort of control over finding the time and the place to be alone and uninterrupted with God so I can have a “peaceful” conversation with Him (I say this with the caveat that, living with other people doesn’t mean I can always guarantee I will be uninterrupted).
But I can try. I’ve said in previous blogs that I didn’t find Peale the sort of writer who matches my “style” or “metaphors,” but I’ve been trying to find ways of translating some of his more hokey stories and comments into a language I can relate to. He actually told a story (I don’t know if it’s about an actual, factual event or not) that I found brilliant.
Peale relates the tale of a baseball team who just couldn’t seem to do anything right. Although they were originally the favorites to carry the season, the team ended up losing 17 of their first 20 games. Naturally, team morale was at a low ebb and they weren’t expecting to score significantly and they absolutely didn’t expect to win any of their future games.
And they almost didn’t.
It so happened that a preacher named Schlater was popular in that neighborhood at that time. He claimed to be a faith healer and apparently was getting some astounding results. Throngs crowded to hear him and most everybody had confidence in him. Perhaps the fact that they did believe in his power enabled Schlater to achieve results.
O’Reilly (the team owner) asked each player to lend him his two best bats. Then he asked the members of the team to stay in the clubhouse until he returned. He put the bats in a wheelbarrow and went off with them. He was gone for an hour. He returned jubilantly to tell the players that Schlater, the preacher, had blessed the bats and that these bats now contained a power that could not be overcome. The players were astounded and delighted.
The next day they overwhelmed Dallas, getting 37 base hits and 20 runs. They hammered their way through the league to a championship, and Hugh Fullerton (a famous sports writer when Peale was a youth, according to the book) said that for years in the Southwest, a player would pay a large sum for a “Schlater bat.”
Actually, it’s O’Reilly who was brilliant for what he pulled off. Peale was only brilliant for relating the tale (unless he made the whole thing up, then Peale really was brilliant). The “faith healing powers” of Schlater were irrelevant. The team didn’t even have to meet him. All they knew is what O’Reilly told them…that Schlater blessed the bats with a special power. As long as the team believed the bats were powerful, then they would behave out of that belief. Nothing else had to change.
I know what you’re thinking and you’re right.
All I (or anyone) have to do is believe in my relationship with God and my own worth in God’s eyes and my own. Nothing else has to change in order for me to start rising up out of the bottom of the well. All I have to do is to believe that I don’t require a faith community in order to be free of the emotional requirement. The whole point of books like Peale’s is to convince their audience to believe in some sort of special power. That’s why Peale presents various passages from the Bible as he does. If his primary audience believes in Jesus or God, and they don’t mind taking Bible verses woefully out of context, then the book will have the desired effect.
Many years ago, I heard a teaching counselor use the phrase “the trickster healer.” It sounds a little suspicious, since you want people who are healers (doctors, psychologists, etc…) to be forthright and honest, but as we see in the story about O’Reilly and the “Schlater bats,” just telling someone what their problem is doesn’t always work. Sometimes you have to “convince” them in other ways that don’t require them to make a conscious, rational decision. Sometimes they just have to believe.
Unfortunately, knowing about the “trick” robs it of its power, so in being aware of the “trick” and writing about it, I can’t also “con” myself into believing in the personal equivalent of a “Schlater bat.”
But I can try to believe in God.
I realize that, based on most of what I’ve said so far, it is practically beside the point whether or not God even exists as long as I believe He exists. This is probably why Peale’s book works even with atheists if they choose to believe in some other internal or external source of “power” instead of God.
I am convinced of the existence of the God of the Bible, however the presence of God isn’t always enough. If God didn’t require my cooperation or involvement in solving my little dilemma, He could just invoke some supernatural power and *poof* my perspective would be different and my paradigm would be shifted. End of story.
But it doesn’t work that way.
Maybe God doesn’t answer the majority of prayers using supernatural means. Maybe, most of the time, He just allows our faith and our trust in Him do most of the work. I’ll talk more about my journey in prayer while sitting at the bottom of my well in tomorrow’s “morning meditation.” In the meantime, the first lesson I’ll need to continue to learn is to be at peace right where I am, expecting nothing, before I can learn to believe and then expect something.
Heywood Floyd: What? What’s going to happen?
Dave Bowman: Something wonderful.
-from the film 2010 (1984)