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Peace Be StillBy Awa Jangha
What is peace?
When you are looking for peace in the middle of a hectic day, what exactly are you looking for? Is it a moment of quiet, a sense of calm, an experience of stillness… or are you looking for a way out, a solution to a problem that will give you peace, or an alternative to the present moment where happiness and greener grass reside?
Dictionary.com gives various definitions of peace which include: nations/countries not being at war with each other, harmony between groups, freedom from strife, a state of tranquility, and a freedom of the mind from disturbance or anxiety. It also goes on to consider peace in different contexts such as: being at peace, making peace, holding one’s peace, and keeping the peace. Here peace can have different connotations. Most of the examples listed above, hint at the absence of a negative experience that could extinguish or threaten a state of peacefulness. But, I wonder, does the absence of negative experiences then sum up the totality of the concept of peace?
I ask this is because, while acknowledging that there are moments in life where all is calm and serene and where there is no doubt that, “yes, here in this place, peace resides,” I also know that there are moments where peace is found in the midst of hard times. I am not totally convinced that peace is the absence of problems, turmoil, and strife. Actually, I believe that an even richer experience of peace is experienced when it is sought after and found in those challenging moments in life.
Peace be Still
When Jesus spoke the words, “Peace be still,” in Mark 4:39, he was on a boat with his disciples in turbulent waters. Danger was surrounding this company of men traveling in the water to the point where the disciples thought that they would perish and die. Yet, their companion Jesus was handling it differently. They actually had to wake Jesus from his slumber. He was asleep during a storm!
Using my sanctified imagination, I would think that the disciples were trying their best to keep water out of the boat and steer the boat through the dangerous waters… basically doing everything within their human power to fix this situation. And then there was Jesus, in sweet sleep, getting both his REM and non-REM sleep cycles in (and mind you he was not asleep due to narcolepsy, having too much wine, or having just taken cold medicine). The disciples probably were astounded by the ability of anyone to be able to sleep in a storm such as the one they were experiencing, and even more so they probably wondered how their friend was not as scared as they were.
Even when Jesus was awakened and uttered those simple, yet deep words, the peace that came when the storm ceased and the waters calmed was not to me the most impressive peace displayed. I am overcome with the peace that Jesus lived in during the storm (his ability to sleep was evident of his peace of mind, peacefulness within, and peace as his way of being). Indeed, it is often in those hard and most challenging times that we need peace the most.
Lessons of Peace
The lesson I glean from Jesus’ state of peacefulness is that there are times when peace is most powerful: when it is present within the experience of the hard times of life. What if we were more open to seeking peace within difficult moments rather than striving for the termination of those formative difficult periods?
There is much to learn from the growth that occurs from hard times as they shape us and pull us towards an awareness of our strengths and growing edges. I am not advocating for a life full of difficult moments, but realistically they are a part of natural life. Being able to have a sense of peace during these periods can help us to better navigate challenges and seek God who is able to make the winds of life stop and model a sense of peace so deep that we too can rest during the difficult moments of life.
There is also an important lesson learned from the disciples and that is the difference between being in the physical presence of Jesus and being in the interpersonal presence of Jesus. They physically had God incarnate with them in the boat during the storm, but they were not able to find peace. It was not until the disciples engaged in conversation with Jesus that they saw the power of his Words still the storm and usher in peace among them.
How often do we cognitively and often dismissively acknowledge the belief that, “Yes, of course God is Omnipresent”, but then proceed to engage in our daily life without operating in the wisdom of that belief? What a difference there could be if we let that belief saturate our way of life? How would life change for us if we invited Jesus’ presence in all our dealings by intentionally engaging with him in conversation and prayer and allowing him to regularly give us peace that passes understanding? We would then have a more personal and spiritually rich definition of peace.
How can we more intentionally practice the belief of God’s omnipresence in our daily lives?
How can we follow Jesus’ example of walking and living in peace?
Dr. Awa Jangha is Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at Seminary of the Southwest. She earned a PhD from Loyola University Maryland in Pastoral Counseling (a Counselor Education and Supervision program). Before moving to Austin, Dr. Jangha served in private practice in Washington DC, where she integrated art therapy with pastoral counseling. Her research interests include multicultural competency, counselor training and supervision, identity development, and arts based research.
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