In this morning’s men’s devotional we were talking Sunday morning’s sermon reference to “The Prince of Peace.”
In International Relations we are referring to the cecessation of hostilities between nation states.
In the quiet of the evening we are talking about the tranquil stillness of an undisturbed scene.
In the Christian life there are certainly those times when hostilities cease and the scene is all quiet and tranquil. But then there are those times when there is peace in the midst of the storm when the rain stings your cheeks, the waters swell around your legs and waist and you have to check your footing to make sure that you don’t get swept away…
…which made me think of the fly fisherman…or, in my case, the UN-fly fisherman. There have been those times when in spite of the cold, the rain and the stiff current of the water I have been found wading in the midst of the stream, casting a nymph pattern in hopes of that illusive catch that would give me bragging rights for all times. It is at times like this that your footing needs to be sure and solid because it only takes one slippery rock, one unseen hole or a patch of that slimey, glue-like sand that sucks you in and will not let you go.
I had that happen once. I was alone. In winter. In the lower northwestern peninsula of Michigan. It was cold and there was a mixture of sleet and snow stinging my cheeks. I parked the car, pulled on my neoprene waders and boots, put on my coat and gloves and hat, put my rod and reel together, slipped on my vest and waded into the stream.
My ankles were in, then my knees, my waste and I was letting my line out for a cast under the overhang across the stream. Confident. Assured. Excited and, even warm, a glow of satisfaction and self-confidence swept over me as I braved the elements to catch that trophy that I knew to be just waiting for my nymph beneath the tree limbs, under a rock.
Then it happened. As I was wading across the stream my right foot hit a pocket of sand that had no bottom. As I brought up my other foot to stop the sucking feeling, I also felt it being sucked into the abyss and there was nothing to do…I was going down with my gear, my waders would soon be filling with water and my head would be going under. Every attempt to extract one foot meant the other would be sucked further in and I would be stuck on this stair-climer with no top stair. I was in trouble and I knew that if I did not act quickly I would go under with no one to witness and rescue me.
So, as counter intuitive as it may sound, I threw my rod up on the bank, put my hands out and laid down face-first in the water and relaxed, stopping the downward slide that would have soon taken me under. I did not notice the cold. All I knew was that if I kept struggling I would not stop sinking. It was time to float because the air around me and in my lungs and in my neoprene’s were the only things that would save me.
What I soon discovered was that as I began to move my arms as if to swim, and as I held my breath, I was able to feel one foot move upwards without sensing the sinking of the other foot at the same time. Slowly, carefully, I began the process of swimming my way out of the hole until one foot found that little bit of solid ground that I needed so I could begin crawling. Soon I began standing again and work my way towards the way I had entered the stream where I knew the ground was solid and the footing sure.
When I got to the shore and pulled myself out of the stream I looked around to see if anyone else had seen me.
This one was between me and God…and, now, you.
Which hit me like a wet fish across the face as I was listening to my friends talking about the peace that God gives in the midst of the storm. The kind of peace begins with the sure-footed, solid ground as we wade into the stream of life. The waters roar and the winds howl but we wade in, checking our step and walking slowly but surely.
Then there are those times when we are swept off of our feet or sucked under by an overwhelming, bottomless quicksand that will not release us…when solid footing is not to be found. Then, just as we are about to panic, we dig deeply within to extract that quiet confidence that allows us to assess the situation, execute a plan to avoid going under and we crawl our way back to where we know the footing is sure and the ground is solid.
Often the scene is not a pretty one. The initial grasping for something solid. The quick footwork to look for a place to land. The flailing of hands for a branch, some river grass or floating log to grab onto. Something! Anything!
And then comes the quiet moment when you realize it is that you either make it or die. And so, you lay it all down, draw on your past experience and training to devise a strategy and execute it with calm assurance of a positive outcome.
I think that is the kind of peace the Bible talks about and that Jesus brings us. It is that quiet assurance that sweeps over you after you have lost your footing and risked losing it all.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6