Was Jesus Talking To Me ...
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. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?" (Mk. 4:39-40, KJV).
In 1993, Debbie and I were living in Wood River, Illinois – noted as the place where Lewis and Clark set forth on their westward explorations. Wood River is on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River where the Missouri River first flows together with it. And in the spring and summer of 1993, both rivers were flooding.
Wood River is protected from flooding by a levee system that is designed to withstand 54 feet of water at flood stage. That year, throughout the spring and the summer, the levee was constantly in danger of being breached. Barges floating on the river (once hidden from our view) were now visible floating on waters far above our heads.
During that spring and summer, I helped to fill sandbags and to lay them around the doors of the levee that had never been closed before. We watched TV footage as other levees failed and washed away farmhouses and crops. We worried about what would happen if our levees failed.
We witnessed boats tied to highway signs in one area where people had been flooded out. They used the boats to try to salvage some of their belongings.
We prayed for relief. One of our worship services was even filmed by a national news crew to talk about the on-going concern for all of us living with the threat of flooding.
One day, while I was away for my doctoral residency, the National Guard came by and told Debbie to be prepared to evacuate if they returned because there was a “sand boil” in the levee protecting us. She was nine months pregnant at the time with a seven-and three-year-old in tow. I rushed home from Chicago to be with her just in case we needed to evacuate. Fortunately, the call never came.
Then late that summer, after we had been blessed with our newborn daughter, it came time for Deb and I to take our vacation. We headed out of the St. Louis area down Route 44 for Joplin … where the grandparents lived. Somewhere between Fenton and Eureka (to the southwest of St. Louis), Deb and I both felt a great relief. We were able to let go of the hidden stress of the flood, to relax, and to just be.
This last weekend, as Deb and I got on the plane to go spend a few days with her parents, I had that same feeling. Something about getting on the plane for “time away” allowed me to turn off the stress and worries about a full inbox, a long to-do list, and the on-going stresses of pandemic. I felt myself let go of the “I should be’s” and just enjoyed watching the passing landscape, reading a book and being with family. Ironically, one of my father-in-law’s spoken wishes for me as a younger man was that I would learn how to relax!
It had been after a full day of teaching, healing, and being in the midst of crowds that Jesus told his disciples that they should get away. Southwest Airlines not yet being available, they opted for a boat to take them to the other side of the shore and when Jesus got on the boat, the stress and responsibilities must have just gone away, because He immediately laid down on a cushion in the back of the boat and went to sleep.
Well, as in most of our experiences of life and ministry, it wasn’t too long until another storm came along and began to threaten Jesus’ time away. The disciples immediately went to Jesus and woke Him … even accusing Him of not caring. A tired and not fully recovered Jesus got up and spoke the words (I like the King James translation) “Peace, Be Still!”. The gospel writers all record Jesus as speaking these words primarily to the wind and the storm. But I wonder ...
Was at least a part of His words directed at the disciples as well?
After all, He did rebuke the disciples for their lack of faith … but lack of faith in what? Lack of faith to be able to rebuke the storm or lack of faith that they could weather the storm?
Or maybe it was lack of faith to relax and trust that God cared enough about them to handle the storm?
Maybe Jesus words of “Peace, Be Still” were also directed to the disciples to calm the emotional storms within them … to help them learn to relax … to find peace and faith even in the midst of a storm.
Maybe you and I need to hear Jesus speak the words “Peace, Be Still” in our lives as well. Maybe one of the unspoken desires of your Father is that you too, learn how to let go of the stress and to relax.
Oh God, you who have power even over the storms and to calm the waves of the sea, speak into my life the word of Peace as well. Amen.
Note: ABCRM as part of a grant from the ABF Palmer Grant Funds is sponsoring a time for senior pastors and their family members to get away in March. For more details or to register, click here to e-mail Mike Oldham.
Steve Van Ostran
American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains