Restrain yourself from affection toward many people, for fear lest your spirit be distracted, so that your interior peace may not be disturbed.
——Abba Evagrius of the Desert
On face value it would seem to be a very harsh thing to say that we should stray away from having many friends and connections. I think we have all heard of the things that people do to gain popularity and power. When someone is obsessed with winning the affection of many people, they have very little time for anything else. Countless hours are spent in front of the mirror and reading tips on how to be the “one.” The more we are focused on such image, the more spiritually restless we become. In this journey we find little interior peace.
Paul tells the Colossian Church to “set their minds on things above.” The Abba says to restrain from our need for popularity. Both of these sayings are directed toward our ability to achieve peace with God. There can be no peace when we are frantically busy trying to be noticed. The only true peace is inner peace – the peace that allows us to thrive in a hostile world. Being at peace with ourselves is the most vital part of our relationship with God. Without the selfless interior peace, we remain spiritually empty.
Solomon tells us in Proverbs that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain. Think about it, the wisest man that ever lived called charm deceitful and beauty vain. Shouldn’t that say something to us in our image conscious world? Our real challenge is to remain focused on the things that are above and to take our eyes off of the crowd that we seek to gather and keep them on our spiritual journey. That focus will help us to achieve the interior peace that is so necessary to walk with God.
O Lord allow me this day to focus on the interior peace that only you can give. Suffer me the strength to resist the temptation of self aggrandizement and carry me to a place of peace. Amen