Be Still: And There Was a Great Calm

[ 3 ] Comments

by Ray DeGraw

In trying to understand more deeply what it means to be a peacemaker, I was struck by the way that the following account is worded:

And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:36-39)

As I thought about this passage, two things jumped out at me:

1) Jesus’ state prior to calming the storm;
2) The actual words used to describe the command and its effect.

Prior to my contemplation of becoming a peacemaker, I had never considered something quite simple about this account. When the storm first raged, and the disciples were fearful of their safety and their very lives, Jesus was asleep. That is worth considering more deeply:

Jesus was asleep – personally at peace – as the storm raged around him and terrified those who were with him. I will return to that point at the end of this post.

“Peace, be still.”

Jesus’ “command”, when read strictly in isolation from the actual context, doesn’t sound like much of a “command”. Like, “Let there be light,” it is a rather benign sounding statement. However, in the Japanese translation of Genesis 1:3, the feeling is very different. “Hikari ga are” (pronounced “heekahree gah ahre”) literally translates as the strictest of commands – roughly equivalent in English to “There WILL be light (because I WILL be obeyed).” With this same perspective, I can picture Jesus standing in the boat saying either of the following:

1) In a soft, gentle, soothing voice – “Peace, be still.
2) In a stern, commanding, authoritative voice, perhaps with outstretched hand – “There WILL be peace. BE STILL.”

I lean toward the second picture (the command), primarily due to the statement in verse 39 that Jesus “rebuked” the wind. “Rebuke” means “sharp, stern disapproval; reproof; reprimand.” Either way, the description of the result is enlightening.

Verse 39 says, “the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” In this statement, there is a distinction made between two separate effects:

1) The wind ceased;
2) There was a great calm.

As I read this passage, I conclude that there are two aspects of becoming a peacemaker in its fullest sense.

First, a peacemaker takes an active role in stopping contention or any manifestation of “storms” that threaten safety – or, in a very real sense, others’ spiritual lives. Remember, this storm wasn’t just a matter of danger in the distance; it was causing the water to fill the boat. In other words, the threat – the danger – was very real and imminent. This is a protective action – rebuking the winds that blow – making those winds cease, even if it takes “sharp, stern disapproval; reproof; reprimand.” It is critical that a peacemaker understands meekness and mercy, as this understanding is vital to recognizing when rebuke truly is necessary – rather than simply “natural” or convenient or easy. It also is critical that she show “an increase of love . . ., lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.” (D&C 121:43) She creates by her actions “stillness” – a condition where it is possible to “know that I am God”. (Psalms 46:10)

Second, a peacemaker ensures that this “stillness” is experienced – is felt – as a “great calm”. When true peace has been created, it is accompanied by a calmness that can be distinguished from the simple quietude that we generally associate with stillness. Jesus’ rebuke of the storm did more than just establish stillness as silence; it left the disciples feeling calm.

Silence is the lack of noise; it is merely a passive condition defined as a void. Silence is understood by what it is not – sound.

Calmness, on the other hand, is defined by what it is – an actual feeling – an emotion – something that fills one’s soul rather than simply the absence of something else. Again, calmness is something in and of itself – an empowering gift that allows someone to remain unaffected by the storm even as it rages and even more so when it ceases. This allows one to feel “calm” even amid turmoil, and it provides “great calm” when turmoil stops.

I return now to Jesus sleeping as the storm raged around him – at peace and calm as others panicked. He possessed an internal peace, but it was his rebuking of the wind (and the subsequent removal of others’ fright and replacement with stillness and calm that extended his own peace to them) that made Him (in this case) a peacemaker.

About Ray DeGraw

I am the husband of my high school sweetheart and father of six children. I basically have no life outside of family, work and church - except blogging, which I have been doing actively, to put it mildly, for the past 5 years. I have lived in almost every section of the United States and currently reside in Carson City, NV. I have written at Things of My Soul, Mormon Matters, Times & Seasons and StayLDS.com - and commented more than occasionally at various sites in the Bloggernacle.

3 Responses to Be Still: And There Was a Great Calm

  1. Paul says:

    Ray, I really like this. A popular concept of a peacemaker is one who is ever building a consensus, seeking to meet everyone’s needs, putting out one fire after another. But in this example, the Savior follows a different model: create peace by aligning with the Creator — with Him, by following His command. When we are all similarly oriented toward Him, we will know peace.

    Also the difference between the absence of contention and the feeling of calm. Anyone who has just ended a difficult conversation with a surly teenager knows that simply ending hostilities is not the same as establishing calm. And both are a part of peacemaking.

    Nicely done. Thanks.

  2. Ray DeGraw says:

    Paul, it’s also interesting that there can be both peace and calm even when disagreement continues. In fact, councils are built on the premise that people can disagree and still sustain and support each other (at least, the way they are supposed to be run) – and my favorite definition of Zion is “unity in diversity”.

    • Paul says:

      There’s a difference, of course, between disagreement and contention. We may disagree amicably, and even agree to disagree.

      For me, and I admit that I have lived a co-dependent life for many years, “peacemaking” was equialent to making everyone else happy (so then I could be happy). That is, of course, not what peacemaking is about.

      As for councils, I think the long-term goal is consensus, not silent disagreement, though the latter may be more expedient when the stakes are not particularly high. And you’re right: we may still sustain even if we have a different point of view. But if councils are the revelatory experiences that Elder Bednar taught about, hopefully when it matters the most, the same inspiration will come to council members, allowing them to agree on the most important issues.

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