Peace Like a Torrent

Waterfall    The book I’m reading, The Practice of the Presence of God, narrowly avoided being defenestrated this morning. (For those of you who aren’t English teachers or fans of Calvin and Hobbes, that means I nearly threw it out a window.) It’s a good book, full of truth and sage advice. But it makes me mad.

You see, it was written by Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk who spent his days peeling potatoes, cobbling shoes, and living each moment pushing further into God’s presence. I love this idea. I want this ability. But he was so monk-ish, and I’m so, well… mom-ish.

Brother Lawrence had no emails to return, no cell phone buzzing on the table. He had no family to care for, no children interrupting his devotional thoughts even ten seconds to wipe a runny nose or find a lost sock. It must have been easy for a single guy living in a house of prayer and worship to find the brain space to be contemplative.  But what about the rest of us who are caught up in the swirl of errands, work, chauffeuring, laundry, refereeing sibling warfare, relationships…?

My little one has an uncanny ability to know, no matter how early I get up, that I have just sat down with my Bible and a cup of coffee. She wakes up yelling and hungry and needing attention right away. And then the moody pre-teen emerges.

I know this time in my life will pass, but now, not years in the future, I just need some elusive peace.

There isn’t a moment that I’m not grateful for these wild, noisy people who share my house and life. But there are times I feel tugged under and pulled along by the hurried current of schedules and demands. I’m caught in the rapids, flipped and tumbled and spun until I’ve lost my sense of direction. If only I could slow the day and catch my breath for a minute.

Is it possible to find peace when life is sometimes so fast-paced that my kids have to tie their shoes in the car? Can I hear a quiet Spirit-whisper through the ringing of the phone and squabbling voices? Because, as much as I try to set aside time to be silent and still, I live in the buzz and hum of motherhood and ministry. I can’t wait to meet God just in the quiet times.

One of my favorite hymns begins, “When peace like a river attendeth my way…”. I’ve always pictured this peaceful river as a wide, slow-moving flow, but a friend recently challenged that imagery. Why, she wondered, can’t peace come in the rush, like a torrent?

    Rushing, wild peace.

Maybe I’ve been missing it. Maybe peace has more to do with God, with his presence in my mayhem than with the pace of life.
Rest is important. Vital to our health, even. But there are times when slowing down isn’t an option. And in those times, God isn’t on the sidelines, waiting for us to step out of the flow and spend time with him. He is in the current, in the torrent with us.  And if Jesus is the Prince of Peace, then shouldn’t peace be wherever he is?

I may not have the opportunity at this point in my life to be contemplative very often, or to read my Bible for more than a minute at a time. (This blog post has taken almost two weeks to write because I’ve had to do most of it in thirty second snatches…) But I can take the time to see God’s hands, to see his face in the people I talk to every day. I can enjoy the way he created my budding poet/songwriter/actress/scientist and listen to her dreams. I can thank him for protecting the two-year-old as I interrupt her tap dance on the kitchen table. I can feel his love for a student squeeze my chest as I listen to her tears on the other end of the phone line. I can sing while I drive, smell Spring creeping in, and know that he is here, that he has not forgotten me.

It’s not so different from finding God while peeling potatoes and cobbling shoes. I guess Brother Lawrence might have been onto something.

Maybe I’ll finish that book after all.

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Spafford, Horatio. “It Is Well”. 1873. Public Domain

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