“Let us go across to the other side” (Mark 4.35)
The day done; the people, Jesus teaching, now departing.
And evening come; time for moving on, carrying on;
crossing the sea to continue his ministry.
Weary, resting, he hears not, fears not the fast-rising storm,
terrifying his disciples, all crying in alarm
(who, as fisherfolk, well-knowing the water-deep,
when tempest-tossed, all is lost,
believing there can be no other end to this raging):
“Do you not care that we are perishing?”
Jesus, awakening, harkening to their plea,
commanding, “Peace! Be still!”, quiets the sea.
Peace is the nature of the kingdom, aye, the character of God…
Thus, the psalmist sang of God who stilled the storm to a whisper,
to a murmur calming the roiling waves.(1)
Thus, when Job ached to know the reason for his afflictions,
God replied with a Self-referential, Self-evidentiary question:
“Who entombed the sea when it burst from the womb?”(2)
Yet “when the woes of life o’ertake” us,(3)
when rise the tempestuous waters of chaos
battering, shattering our care-constructed dams
(all the ways we seek to keep chaos at bay) of
our blessed families and relationships,
our devoted, meaning-granting life’s labors,
our spirited leisure and treasured pleasures,
our well-reasoned planning for our futures,
we cry for the surest surcease of relief and release…
Would that it could be…that it would be as simple
as the psalmist’s belief that when faced with trouble
we are delivered from all ills;(4)
our petitions answered with that divine, efficacious word:
“Peace! Be still!”
But. it. isn’t. that. simple.
Woes betide, whether human-or-nature-made.
And no amount of praying makes them in peace abide.
So, mystics and martyrs,
saints and all great strugglers,
from time before time,
have searched and found consolation
in Jesus’ word: “My peace I give to you, not as the world giveth”(5)
and in Paul’s word of God’s peace, all understanding surpasseth.(6)
So, the poet, reflecting on these truths, wrote:
The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife closed in the sod;
yet let us pray for but one thing: the marvelous peace of God.(7)
For worldly peace is deliverance from affliction;
an absence of tribulation.
The peace of God, the peace of Jesus, steadfast amid calamity,
is the fruit of an inward liberty
from that all-consuming self-consciousness
that ever-looks to (yearning to control!) outward circumstance
(alway an impossibility!).
I’ve known this peace whene’er I, with Jesus, to “the other side” have cross’d…
“The other side” is my desolate place
far apart from the irenic oasis
of my world-presenting persona, my false face of peace.
“The other side” where, there I see anew the memorial, funereal
stones of my manifold atonements and punishments
for all that I’ve done that I ought not to have done
and all that I’ve not done that I ought to have done;
and, so, where, there
to confess my abiding propensity to continue to do
as I ought not and not to do as I ought;
and, so, where, there
I am newer, greater aware of change I need make in my life,
my way of seeing,
my way of being.
It is in this irony of this disturbing re-encountering
of memories of ought nots and oughts
and my anew-awareness of needs and need nots of change
that I, embracing this my fullest self
(especially the parts I’d hide e’en from my self)
find the freedom to let go of me,
so to be at peace.
(1) Psalm 107.29
(2) Job 38.8
(3) From the hymn, In the cross of Christ I glory; words by John Bowring (1792-1872)
(4) Psalm 107.6
(5) John 14.27
(6) Philippians 4.7
(7) From the hymn, They cast their nets in Galilee; words by William Alexander Percy (1885-1942)
Christ and the Storm (1914), Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Jesus Stilling the Tempest, James Tissot (1836-1902)