Peace Like a River


Yesterday was one of those glorious days where peace just settled beautifully all around me. I didn’t have to strive for it or even think about it, it just happened. I’m one of those people that have to talk myself into being peaceful and slow but yesterday, without any effort of my own, I was just there.

Jack, Eliza, and I went to walk around a little preserve that’s oddly tucked into an industrial park. It’s beautiful and strange, a bubbling stream, a blue hole, a final sink where all the water disappears back underground, surrounded by the sounds of construction equipment and trains. I let Jack lead the way which meant a lot of time spent sitting by the water as he threw rocks in.

Peace like a river, I thought. Peace like a river. My soul was still, my mind was quiet, I was completely without any agenda. I thought about a story I heard Rob Bell share about his young son collecting seashells one day on the beach. His son suddenly saw a starfish floating in the water and got super excited. Rob watched his son run back and forth into the waves and encouraged him to just go get the thing. Finally his son came running up to him and said, “Dad, I want it so bad but I can’t get it, my hands are full of shells.”

My life is full of so many wonderful things, my family, friends, community near and far. And with all of those wonderful things come obligations, responsibilities, and to-do lists. I feel like I’m just like Rob Bell’s son most of the time, knowing there’s something big and awesome that I want, that’s in my reach, but I just don’t have the time or resources, or enough hands. The things I’m trying to juggle aren’t bad things, they’re good and wonderful but sometimes they don’t allow me, or really, I don’t allow me, to get past them to the most important things.

Yesterday it was like I had dropped the shells and grabbed that big beautiful starfish. As Eliza and I sat there and watched Jack, I thought- this is it. This is my starfish. It is well with my soul.

As the day went on and we left our blissful, quirky little park, I tried to cling to that peace as much as I could. I almost dropped Eliza on her head in a parking lot- strike one, trying to cook dinner and the kiddos went crazy- strike two, Jack yelled “Mommy!!!!” all night long until we were in a 4 hour back and forth until 6am- strike three. I could feel it slipping, I could feel my frustration flaring, all my “poor me’s” trying to pin me down. I looked at the clock the last time I went into Jack’s room- 5:58, my alarm was going to go off at 6:15. I took a deep breath and decided to think- “whoo-hoo 15 more minutes of sleep!!” instead of spending that last 15 minutes crying and throwing my own temper tantrum.

What I’ve realized these past 24 hours is that peace and a true sense of wellness deep inside of us is a choice most days. I could have chosen to allow the things that didn’t go my way or my personal agenda to disrupt that peace completely and it did for short little spurts, but I realized ultimately, that this is my choice. I can choose to keep surrendering my thoughts and emotions and concerns to the One who can ultimately truly take care of them, or I can take them into my own hands and be a frazzled, frustrated mess. Most days I’m the later but yesterday I tasted something so much greater, so refreshing, that at least for now, I feel like it would be foolish to go back to trying to control and manage it all myself.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

I’ve been singing this old hymn to myself all day- even when it doesn’t all feel well. Each time it brings me back to the center, back to the most important things. I encourage you today (as I’m constantly encouraging myself) to let go of the shells and breathe. Let peace settle deep within your soul and invite Jesus to place his gentle hands around it, keeping it safe and in place so that no matter what happens around you it is well with your soul. 


Peace Like a River

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