Sunday, July 6, 2008

Peace, Be Still: And There Was a Great Calm

(Before reading this post, please consider reading the last one - "They Shall Be Called the Children of God".)

In trying to understand more deeply what it means to be a peacemaker, I was struck by the way that the following account is worded:
And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:36-39)

As I thought about this passage, two things jumped out at me:

1) Jesus' state prior to calming the storm;
2) The actual words used to describe the command and its effect.

Prior to this month, I have never considered something quite simple about this account. When the storm first raged, and the disciples were fearful of their safety and their very lives, Jesus was asleep. That is worth considering more deeply:

Jesus was asleep - personally at peace - as the storm raged around him and terrified those who were with him. I will return to that point at the end of this post.

"Peace, be still."

Jesus' "command", when read strictly in isolation from the actual context, doesn't sound like much of a "command". Like, "Let there be light," it is a rather benign sounding statement. However, in the Japanese translation of Genesis 1:3, the feeling is very different. "Hikari ga are" (pronounced "heekahree gah ahre") literally translates as the strictest of commands - roughly equivalent in English to "There WILL be light (because I WILL be obeyed)." With this same perspective, I can picture Jesus standing in the boat saying either of the following:

1) In a soft, gentle, soothing voice - "Peace, be still."
2) In a stern, commanding, authoritative voice, perhaps with outstretched hand - "There WILL be peace. BE STILL."

I lean toward the second picture (the command), primarily due to the statement in verse 39 that Jesus "rebuked" the wind. "Rebuke" means "sharp, stern disapproval; reproof; reprimand." Either way, the description of the result is enlightening.

Verse 39 says, "the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." In this statement, there is a distinction made between two separate effects:

1) The wind ceased;
2) There was a great calm.

As I read this passage, I conclude that there are two aspects of becoming a peacemaker in its fullest sense.

First, a peacemaker takes an active role in stopping contention or any manifestation of "storms" that threaten safety - or, in a very real sense, others' spiritual lives. Remember, this storm wasn't just a matter of danger in the distance; it was causing the water to fill the boat. In other words, the threat - the danger - was very real and imminent. This is a protective action - rebuking the winds that blow - making those winds cease, even if it takes "sharp, stern disapproval; reproof; reprimand." It is critical that a peacemaker understands meekness and mercy, as this understanding is vital to recognizing when rebuke truly is necessary - rather than simply "natural" or convenient or easy. It also is critical that she show "an increase of love . . ., lest he esteem thee to be his enemy." (D&C 121:43) She creates by her actions "stillness" - a condition where it is possible to "know that I am God". (Psalms 46:10)

Second, a peacemaker ensures that this "stillness" is experienced - is felt - as a "great calm". When true peace has been created, it is accompanied by a calmness that can be distinguished from the simple quietude that we generally associate with stillness. Jesus' rebuke of the storm did more than just establish stillness as silence; it left the disciples feeling calm. Silence is the lack of noise; it is merely a passive condition defined as a void. Silence is understood by what it is not - sound.

Calmness, on the other hand, is defined by what it is - an actual feeling - an emotion - something that fills one's soul rather than simply the absence of something else. Again, calmness is something in and of itself - an empowering gift that allows someone to remain unaffected by the storm even as it rages and even more so when it ceases. This allows one to feel "calm" even amid turmoil, and it provides "great calm" when turmoil stops.

I return now to Jesus sleeping as the storm raged around him - at peace and calm as others panicked. He possessed an internal peace, but it was his rebuking of the wind (and the subsequent removal of others' fright and replacement with stillness and calm that extended his own peace to them) that made Him (in this case) a peacemaker.

It is that condition about which I intend to write next - not what it means to be a peacemaker, but rather how one becomes a peacemaker.


Mama D said...

This is fantastic! I love the verses in the scriptures that talk about peace and stillness. Probably because I am continually in need of learning this lesson.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love your thought process, and the way you open eyes and minds and hearts to understanding.

sojourner said...

Peace is good

Papa D said...

sojourner, I agree - and got a good laugh. Thanks.

Vince and Denise said...

You know you just a fountian of knowledge. I love hearing your thoughts on things and I am looking forward to reading your next post.

You have shed some different light for me on this passage. When I think of this story, I put myself in the place of the disciples. Or that the boat represents my life, my Christian walk. When they first set sail, everything was calm and peaceful, but the storm came up and things quickly changed. Much like our walk. Some days it peaceful and calm, but thanks to Satan those storms arise around us. I know when those storms come I get worried, but I always know that I can turn to Christ for that everlasting peace, much like the disciples.

Papa D said...

v&n, I really like that view of the passage, as well. Thanks for sharing it.

adamf said...

I really like the idea that Jesus was in a calm state before/while rebuking the wind. Often we try to be peacemakers yet become emotionally dysregulated ourselves.

Previously I had never thought anything more of Jesus' sleeping in these versus other than how the apostles must have been annoyed or impatient, but it's making more sense now. :)

Patty said...

Somehow the thought of Jesus sleeping during the storm always made sense to me. Since He is the Creator He would know the ways of all of the elements and wouldn't fear them, so it never surprised me that He was sleeping in the ship when the storm was raging. (And having such an incredibly close relationship with the Father I would assume that He was blessed with a large amount of calm amidst the storms in His life.)
I love the thought that to be a peacemaker we have to rebuke and help to create or restore calm. That's hard to do if our hearts aren't in the right place to begin with.
I also really loved "calmness is something in and of itself - an empowering gift that allows someone to remain unaffected by the storm even as it rages and even more so when it ceases." This made me think of my post on storms and how God's help often comes in the form of calm during and after the storms of our lives.
I'm glad I finally had some more time to do some blog reading- this was worth it!!