It’s early on a Sunday morning. While out for a walk to process, pray and clear my head, I came upon these trees in one of the parks near my home. I was struck by their frosty beauty and in an instant, filled with a sense of hope, excitement and calm. While at that point the beautiful white on them was only frost, it gave me hope that snow (and winter) is coming! For me, the winter season is the most magical and hope-filled. In the midst of the darkness and cold, where everything seems to take just a little bit longer, I find it to be the time when I experience the most calm and sense of peace. And while I was standing, looking at these trees, I was reminded of Rend Collective’s song: Whatever Comes.
The song starts off with the lines,
“Lord whatever comes, make me steadfast, make me rooted. A cedar planted firm, keep me grounded in your goodness, whatever comes.
Lord whatever comes, be my bedrock, keep me steady. Loyal to your throne, whatever stands against me, whatever comes.
Be my bravery when I am trembling, be my courage when my heart is caving in. Be the fireside when I am wondering, be my father, whatever comes.
Two phrases, in particular, stood out to me that morning – “make me steadfast” and “keep me steady.” It was a gift that morning to be reminded that it was possible to not be shaken if I stayed rooted in the peace and calm that I felt in that moment. And as I stood before a day that I knew would likely have some things that wouldn’t go how I hoped they would, my prayer was that I wouldn’t lose that sense of strength and peace. And how quickly I had to fight to keep that at the forefront of my mind as the concerns of the day started to pop up and try to steal it away. Not only that day, but as I went into the rest of the week, there was a wrestle between knowing that I follow a God that desires for me to live in his presence and experience the peace and joy that comes from life with him, and then actually experiencing it clearly like I did that morning in the park.
As we’ve been journeying through the devotionals on Psalm 23 that Deb has been writing for us, the thing that stopped my most during week 4 was the phrase in Psalm 23:4,
“Even though I walk through the valley…I will fear no evil, for you are with me;”.
Even though, I walk through… I am encouraged and challenged by these two phrases. There is beauty in David’s ability to acknowledge from the beginning of this Psalm that the Lord is His Shepherd, and because of that, he wants for nothing, even though, he might be walking through a valley. Yet, because he knows he is walking with the Lord, he will fear no evil. And I am reminded of the words of Jesus in John 14 “I leave the gift of peace with you – my peace. Not the kind of fragile peace given by the world, but my perfect peace. Don’t yield to fear or be troubled in your hearts – instead, be courageous!” (V.27, Passion Translation) or in The Message: “I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left – feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.”
Throughout this past week, I have found that this increased longing to live into the deep, whole, peace that comes from life with the Father, requires a daily reminder of the need to be rooted and grounded in God’s goodness. For me it has required cultivating a practice of thankfulness and reflection and the end of each day. So that when the difficult moments come, when people hurt you and let you down, you’re (I’m) rooted and grounded in something so much deeper. It’s not been simple or easy, because when you long for something like peace, I think you become more aware of the moments you aren’t experiencing it, but one of the gifts of this longing has been realizing that I can’t create peace. As much as I long for it, it is not something I can manufacture, the more I strive for it, the less it is there. But, if I am able to relinquish control, to live with the mindset that I lack nothing, and thank God (but maybe not like) the experiences I am having, that’s when the peace is able to come.
This past Sunday morning I went for another walk. This time there was snow sticking to the ground and the trees!! And as I reflected on the past week, there was a deep thankfulness that even though the week had a lot of tears and hurt, it was also a week where I think more consistently that I ever have, I felt the peace that Jesus promised. I was able to look back and see the peace in the midst of the difficulties and in the midst of the fun. To see that as I remind myself daily of whose I am, and the deep love the Father has for me, the more I am able to be steady in the midst of the things around me that I can’t control.