Speaking to the Soul: A Dead Calm

Week of 2 Lent, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 69:1-23(24-30)31-38 (morning) // 73 (evening)

Genesis 43:1-15

1 Corinthians 7:1-9

Mark 4:35-41

I’ve often read today’s gospel about Jesus calming the storm and wondered why my faith doesn’t equip me to summon peace very easily. Is my faith just too weak? In this passage, a windstorm arises and waves beat against the boat, and the terrified disciples wake Jesus up and ask whether he cares at all that they’re about to drown. Jesus responds by rebuking the wind, commanding the sea to be still, and taking the disciples to task for their fear and faithlessness: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

I find these last questions from Jesus intimidating. When we find ourselves driven by winds, overwhelmed by waves, and exasperated by a God who seems to be asleep at the helm, would the truly faithful be miraculously filled with peace? The practice of faith does sometimes bring with it a reassuring calm, but I still don’t think that a lack of inner peace is a sign of weak faith any more than illness or suffering are indicators of faithlessness.

Today, I particularly noticed the verse between Jesus’s commands to the wind and sea, and his questioning of the disciples’ faith. The verse says, “Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.” Growing up near the ocean, I have a sense of what that sudden and dead calm was like. Then I wondered: Is the deep peace commanded by Jesus achievable only in the peace of death?

I once spoke with someone who had a dream after a relative’s death in which she saw him, for the first time, completely freed of the anxiety he carried with him all his life. It was such a relief to experience him in this way, resting in peace. While there are many ways to manage earthly fear and anxiety, all with different ranges of effectiveness for different people, perhaps what the gospel promises is not relief from what overwhelms us in the here and now. Perhaps what the gospel offers is the prospect of deep and eternal rest with the one sleeping soundly on a cushion in the midst of a stormy sea. A dead calm that accompanies us even among the living.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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