Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Today, we were challenged to consider how to let peace rule in our hearts. As I thought about it, a vignette came to mind.
There was a terrible storm. The wind was blowing, the waves were crashing, and the small boat was in danger of going down. The men were experienced sailors, fishermen, who knew these waters well. And they feared for their lives. It was the antithesis of peaceful.
Yet, in the back of the boat a lone figure slept serenely. The noise of the wind and the storm did not disturb him. The pitching of the boat in the waves did not disrupt his rest. Even the soaking from the rain and the water coming over the bulwark did not rouse him from his slumber. He was the embodiment of peaceful.
Finally, when things looked to be their worst, the sailors woke the man in the back. “Teacher,” they said, “don’t you care if we drown?” On the surface, this would seem to be an odd interaction. They were the experienced sailors; this man was a carpenter. Surely he had nothing to offer to the immediate problem. On the other hand, misery loves company and perhaps they couldn’t stand to face their demise while someone else was peacefully oblivious.
Or maybe it was something else. Perhaps there was a glimmer of hope. They had seen this man do amazing things, miraculous things. Even though they were constantly perplexed by his teaching, they knew there was something special about this man.
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
What I find odd about this story is that he rebuked them for their fear. Fear seems like a perfectly natural and appropriate response to a life-threatening storm. My dad, a career Naval officer, has a desk plaque with the Breton Fisherman’s Prayer: “Oh God, Thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.” As a land-lubber myself, I can empathize with the sentiment here, but I have not actually experienced the vastness of the sea and the insignificance of my boat. But the men who live on the sea know its power and their impotence. Sailors have no illusion of taming the sea; they just hope to peacefully coexist with it until they can return safely to port.
Maybe you aren’t a sailor either, but there are raging storms that are threatening to shipwreck your life. Perhaps it is a life-threatening or chronically debilitating illness. Maybe it’s impending financial ruin, a wayward child or an unfaithful spouse. You look at the wind and the waves and you know you have done all that you can do, and it is never going to be enough. The boat is going down.
Fear is a perfectly natural, seemingly appropriate response to these situations. And yet, there is Jesus, asleep in the back of the boat. He is not concerned. What does he know that you don’t?
The difference I see in this story between Jesus and his disciples is that Jesus knew that his father’s will would prevail. He knew that he had a mission to complete and that dying in this boat was not a part of it. He also knew that all of heaven and earth was subject to the power of God. His knowing was not simply an intellectual self-persuasion exercise, it was a deeply rooted, experiential confidence and awareness of and in the very presence of God.
Our English words seem so weak to convey this point; in the King James Bible, it says “Adam knew his wife and she conceived.” In the same way (level, or degree) that Adam knew his wife physically, Jesus knew the Father spiritually. Trying to explain it another time, he said “I and the Father are one.”
Now, of course, I’m not Jesus and neither are you. I don’t (this side of heaven) have the level of intimacy, experience, or dare I say, faith that Jesus had. But I am learning. And neither do I know of a certainty what my mission here on earth is, when my end will come, or what it will look like. It may very well be that this storm actually will take me down. So instead of worrying about what I can’t control, I’m working on focusing on the one who is in control.
Peace rules in my heart as I consciously abandon myself into the care of my Lord. If I die, I die to his glory. If I lose it all, then so be it; “the just shall live by faith”. If my child or spouse or friend or even my enemy betrays me, I know that God will never leave me or forsake me. In the mean time, let’s get on about the business of the Kingdom, doing what I know that God has called me to do.
I think I’m going to take a nap.