Sunday, November 1, 2015

Peace Like a River

“I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.”

I taught this song to kids at Vacation Bible School many times. I don’t think it is actually Biblical… there is talk of Living Waters that truly satisfy, and still waters in the Psalms. But the image I had was of a slow and lazy river. Warm. Safe. But thoughts of peace are tumbling out of my mind… Peace. River.
But rivers rage. They change with the seasons. In the winter the Peace River is frozen. Jagged and jutting. Not like a skating rink. It froze mid-thought, struggling. It is angry to me. Not peaceful.

In the spring the rivers do rage, they rise and dislodge the accumulated debris and driftwood on the banks. And the river is rough, dark, swirling and dangerous. But the shore is clean. Fresh. The rocks are smoother and softer, the way a glacier imperceptibly crushes the rocks smooth, over millennium.

But deep in the river, far below the surface, below the undertow, this turbulence and chaos is not felt. At least I don’t think it is. To find the peace of the deep river, to be submerged in it, to feel both the intense weight of it and the weightlessness, those logs and rocks on the surface from far upstream, the ones you can’t see or feel anymore, you need those to be dislodged, little by little. If they aren’t dislodged season after season, but build, they collide and collect, connect and tangle, and dam up the river. The flow is stopped. The dam creates a pool, and the pool is so gentle, placid, it is so calm and serene, and it feels like the peace we crave, but it is artificial, temporary, the calm before the storm. The pressure builds and the dam breaks and each piece of debris slams into our lives, too many pieces at once, and we are overwhelmed. It hits so hard and unexpected that we don’t know if we can swim. And we fear all the water and debris, and we desperately want to get to shore.

But is there ever truly peace on the shore?

 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,”he said, “why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14.27-31

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