Peace surpassing understanding

WRA 1976(Note: Twenty-three years ago, my brother, Wayne Roberts Abernathy, died. As this coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, when Christians will enter Holy Week, commemorating the last days of the life and ministry of Jesus before his crucifixion and death, I am called, compelled to look ahead to the Easter triumphal proclamation of life everlasting.)

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked…Jesus came and stood among them, saying, “Peace be with you.”(1)

Peace be with you

Jesus was crucified
and his disciples, loving him greatly,
longing for him terribly,
come together, gathering, grieving.

Jesus, raised from death, appearing –

his disciples rejoicing:
“He’s back from the dead,
back with us,
back, never to leave us again!”
(but ‘tis not to be) –

saying, “Peace be with you”,
then, again, departing.

This is no peace!
This is nonsense!
(Yet, so Paul writes of God’s peace surpassing all [our] understanding.)(2)

They, those first disciples, could not understand that Jesus was with them.
Not as before, in blood and flesh,
but in a fashion greater,
through the Spirit, his Spirit, in their blood and flesh;
inmost as a heartbeat,
immanent as breath,
immediate as memory and thinking,
as impulse and feeling;
as the peace of oneness that surpasses understanding,
beyond human intellect to comprehend
or human ingenuity to create.

Today, 23 years ago, my brother Wayne died.
I loved and love him greatly.
I longed and long for him terribly.

O, oft I’ve wished he was back.
Back from the dead.
Back with me.
But ‘tis not…‘tis ne’er to be.

Yet Wayne is with me still.
Not as before in blood and flesh,
but in a fashion greater,
for he is alive and lives within me,
as close to me
as my breathing,
in the immediacy of my thinking,
in the spontaneity of my feeling,
in the vivid imagery of my memory…

of a human being of incarnate integrity;
one who dared to be true to himself and honest with others;
one who lives, as long as I live and love, as a model of authenticity;
the presence, the reality
of which is beyond my reason to comprehend or my ingenuity to create.

In this, I know peace.


(1) John 20.19
(2) Philippians 4.7

4 thoughts on “Peace surpassing understanding

  1. Paul,
    Thank you for this!! I’ts amazing, and so loving! Many people would do anything to have the kind of relationship and love you shared with Wayne. I’m glad you had such an amazing relationship, AND even more, that you have found peace. I know that I too will find such peace regarding my relationships with Renee and Tim, and with my Mom… for whom I also grieve though she’s still with us.
    Wishing you continued peace!
    Much love


  2. I pray your peace with the deaths of Renee and Tim daily. Even more, I pray your peace enveloped in your memories of them. Still more, I pray your peace in your ongoing relationships with them. For this I have come to believe…

    I used to believe that when people died they remained frozen in time and memory, just as they were in their lives and development at the moment of drawing their final breaths. I now believe, largely in and through my experience of my relationship with Wayne, that the dead can continue to live and grow and develop. To wit, not infrequently, I hear Wayne’s voice commenting on some current matter that weighs on my mind, counseling me to do this or that; his advice, sometimes admonitions being quite apart and different from how I was thinking or what I had planned to do. When this first happened, now, some years ago, I perceived as strange and, at best, some emanation from my subconscious (that is, a thought or an awareness that, yes, resided within me and, thus, from no one else and from nowhere else, yet, until it arose to my consciousness, remained lodged in my unconscious). I suppose that still could be. Still, I believe I know myself fairly well and, thus, can acknowledge my preferences and tendencies. Here, again, these words of Wayne are so different from my patterns of perceiving and processing that I consider them his shared with me from a world beyond and away.

    One more thought…

    If this can be true (and even if one could argue with me that it isn’t true, it remains true for me), then this helps me understand on both a human and spiritual level the stories of the disciples and their recollections of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances and words to them.

    Again, praying your peace with Renee and Tim and, yes, amen, your beloved mother Doris. For you know that I know the painful experience of being with the living who, in many salient respects, is no longer present; the experience of witnessing a vibrant personality disappear. I grieve with you.

    I love you,


    1. This is such important confirmation for me Paul!! YES I believe that even though they are no longer here physically, they CAN still change and grow along with us!!!!! I can definitely hear Tim encouraging me on the road and lifting me up!! I can hear my Mom’s voice too!! Even though these days she can only hum and say a few words …. two of which are “Jesus Christ” so I know she’s encouraging me in her own way. I know that even though we weren’t all that close that Renee is still with me and cheering! Something we didn’t get a chance to share much while she was actually here. It’s still amazing to me that she and Tim died on the same day five years apart, but I’ve rationalized it to mean that I’m supposed to grieve less during the year… so all on one day!! ….In any case, I’ll be keeping this post and reading it when I need it on the road.

      I love you too!! And thanks for being right along side me on my journey…


  3. I’m always happy whenever I can write or say or share something that anyone finds…that you find useful, helpful.

    Another thought occurs as I re-read your comments. You write: “I know that even though we weren’t all that close that Renee is still with me and cheering!” I believe that I know what you mean. Still, I also believe that YOU were and are close to Renee. Your devotion to her, especially in her illness and in her dying, was…is a testament to the closeness of your loving care for her. The intention and action of your love, I think…feel, made up for (covered the ground) of any relational distance between you.

    As for your grieving on one day, that day being the anniversaries of Renee’s and Tim’s death, I have more than a gut hunch that you think of them, each and both, often, and, in your thinking of them, you rediscover the depth of your grief, which is another expression of the breadth of your love.



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