Sunday, August 17, 2014

Peace-giving God

The ABC’s of knowing God better: the letter “P”

The LORD blesses his people with peace. – Ps. 29:11 (NIV)
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” –Jesus, as quoted in John 14:27 (NKJV)

Three days before my twentieth birthday, my father died.
I’d been summoned from college, a hundred miles away. This wasn’t the first summons.
I’d been watching Dad lose weight for months. Surgery a month earlier hadn’t been successful. But Dad and Mom tried to convince me it was an ulcer, not stomach cancer.
The “C” word. Back then, in 1971, it was a death sentence. Especially when you let it go as long as Dad had.

Perhaps my parents didn’t want to burden me during a 19-credit semester.
But I knew. Deep down I knew. And gnawed with worry. About Dad. About my academic load. I was a semester away from student teaching, a semester away from graduating. I couldn’t afford to miss any more classes.
So I visited one of my favorite professors, one of the few who took a personal interest in his students and who’d be honest with me.
“Go home,” he said. “Your family is more important. You can always withdraw and take your courses next semester.”
He knew what I wasn’t ready to face—that my father was dying.
A friend drove me to the hospital. Dad died a few hours later. It was my first experience with the death of someone close to me.
I went home that night looking for him. Surely his spirit would come to say goodbye. I looked and looked. A radio mysteriously turned on. Anything.
But nothing. Nothing until Friday morning, the day of his funeral—and my twentieth birthday.
I sensed it before my eyes even opened that morning—a peace so profound, so pervading, so supreme that it was present in every molecule of the air around me and in every cell of my being.
I, who work with words for a living, have no words to describe it. The closest description is what Paul wrote to the Philippians when he described God’s peace as “the peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
God’s peace transcends anything we can even imagine on this side of heaven.
Forty-three years have passed. I’ve been on the mountain. I’ve trudged through the valleys. I’ve wrestled with despair. But I never forgot the gift of peace God gave me that day. Indeed, the memory—I can still almost feel that peace—has gotten me through life’s challenges.
I’ve found truth in what Isaiah wrote: “Thou will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee” (Isaiah 23:3 KJV).
One of God’s names is YHWH Shalom, which means “The LORD is peace.” He is peace and He gives peace. The peace that transcends all understanding.
Do you have it? Have you asked for it?
May Your peace, O Lord, reign in my heart and soul and mind today and every day. Amen.

Mom, me, and Dad - summer, 1971
Special-Tea: Read Mark 4:35–41

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