Archive for Peace

On Finding Peace: Life In An Interfaith Home

Teals

With all the chaos and turmoil in the world it is easy to be overwhelmed with despair, to feel there is nothing that can ease the world’s suffering. Perhaps the truly gifted and great can transform the wide world, but most of us can make a difference just by transforming our families and friendships.

The last 5 years have brought tremendous upheaval to my life- from health issues and financial changes to a major long distance move. I made it through all of these changes because of the presence of one person: my husband Barry.

He is a dear, kind soul and his support has been everything to me. Over the 16 years we have cobbled together a beautiful life from two very different cultural perspectives. My husband is Jewish and from a religious family. Although I was never brought to church as a child, my family has a strong Christian heritage that includes ministers and missionaries stretching all the way back to Elder William Brewster on the Mayflower.

Barry’s family is oriented to the group. They have large family parties that include 2nd and 3rd cousins. They are close-knit and care about keeping everyone together. My family, on the other hand, is scattered to the wind. We were raised with the idea that the individual was most important. There is never even pressure or expectation that we should be home for holidays. Our families are the complete opposite.

Barry & I fell in love and then we spent the next 16 years figuring out how to mesh these two disparate viewpoints. I learned to keep a Kosher kitchen and Barry learned to dress a Christmas tree. But the deep learning came by discovering how to respect each other’s culture. I went in with a healthy admiration for Judaism, but had my openness severely challenged by the clash of cultures. How does the individual, the one who prides herself on being different from everyone, interact with the group? I was like a square peg in a round hole. In the beginning I blamed Barry’s family for me not fitting it, but I came to realize the problem was in me. I wanted things my way, the way it had always been.

I am deeply grateful for this experience. I was a fraud. I thought myself so liberal and open, but when it came down to it I couldn’t accept that people did things differently from me. This experience has softened me. After all these years I can truly accept and honor our differences. I love that I get to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, Passover and Easter. I love that I am constantly forced to be open and accepting. And more than anything I love the dear man, who has challenged me to keep on living, to forgive, and to live up to my own lip service about who I am.

In the beginning of our relationship, there was so much conflict and upset because of these cultural differences, but we surmounted these differences. Over the past 5 years we have been through upheavals that would have torn many families apart in relative peace. This gives me great hope for the world. Cultural differences can be overcome, but not necessarily by changing the outside. When we can’t change the external situation in the world around us, we can look for the darkness inside, root out the judgments against others and our own attachment to having things our way. We are not powerless, we can create true peace in our own lives. This familial peace is like stone falling in a stagnant pond. The waves will fan out through the world.

Pax
All that matters is to be at one with the living God
to be a creature in the house of the God of Life.

Like a cat asleep on a chair
at peace, in peace
and at one with the master of the house, with the mistress,
at home, at home in the house of the living,
sleeping on the hearth, and yawning before the fire.

Sleeping on the hearth of the living world
yawning at home before the fire of life
feeling the presence of the living God
like a great reassurance
a deep calm in the heart
a presence
as of the master sitting at the board
in his own and greater being,
in the house of life.
-DH Lawrence