Peace that Passes All Understanding
by Tony Franklin
Memorial Day Weekend is quickly approaching. Some are ready for cookouts. Others are excited about shopping the sales. Yet there are some who will see this as a quieter, more somber time.
Those who have lost loved ones will take flowers to graves and notice the empty spaces in their homes and in their lives. They may remember a knock at their door and answering to a military officer, a member of the police or rescue squad, or a close family member bringing terrible news. Perhaps they will remember a doctor saying, "We've done all we can do.".
Memorial Day calls us to honor those who have passed from this life. It also calls us to honor the grief we go through in their passing. How can we do that and where is that elusive "peace that passes all understanding" that Paul promises us?
"As Good As It Gets" by Matt Maher
There is a hint about the work of God in the grief of our lives in the song "As Good As It Gets" by Matt Maher. The two verses are filled with reminiscence of the past and concern about the future. Then he brings us to God, our very present help in times of trouble and grief, in the chorus.
This prayer of gratitude and submission to God's direction shows the centering power of God in our lives. Oftentimes we hear about "centering" or "being present" as a kind of eastern meditation, yet throughout scripture, God does just that for His people. He centers them in the present moment. He reminded the Hebrew people of their past, not as a place they should return to, but as a place they were rescued from. God took their worries of the future and promised them the power of His presence, giving them past and present examples. He allowed them to trade their fear of the future for hope in His promise. As Matt writes, that is where I find my rest. That is where I find that "peace that passes all understanding". When I can pull my mind and heart into the present, and actually be present with God who is already here, it is then that I find true peace.
The name of God
The peace found in the ever-present presence of God should not surprise us. God advertised it clearly in the Old Testament. Moses asked God, "Who should I say sends me back into Egypt to set the Hebrew people free?". God told him the name YHWH, which means "I am that I am". God's name is a declaration of existence in an eternal present. We do not have to wait for Him to arrive. He is waiting on us to realize He is already here.
Many Christian philosophers and teachers, including both Augustine and Aquinas, described God as somehow existing "outside time." I have found myself both confused and skeptical of this concept. I can picture God, the great filmmaker, standing outside a roll of film and editing each of the frames. Meanwhile, we, within those frames, perceive God as intervening in our "present" moments. God has all our past, present, and future, literally within His hands. I am sure that these philosophers go deeper than that. However, there seems to be something cheap about this explanation. You may recall this god-like figure from The Matrix: Reloaded.
He was disappointing to Neo and disappointing to us. This is not what I imagine omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience looks like. This looks like a man in a control room. So I'm not completely sold on the concept of God being outside time yet. I believe He is within it, beyond it, greater than it, and that it is probably beyond my ability to understand... much like the peace we receive from Him.
It is a mystery, but I believe even mysteries of God allow us handles to grasp when we cannot catch the bigger picture. For us, this day, that handle is God's presence, which pulls through and out of our grief, into this present moment, where we can find the peace and comfort we need.
Trying to hear the music in the din of many voices.
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