This is an ongoing “Fruit of the Spirit” series featuring my past perspectives from December 2019 along with my present-day reflections in 2020. Check out my series intro, my first fruit about love, my second fruit about joy, and my midway reflections on peace as I complete those peace-reflections below.

Dean from December 2019

When my daughter was little, we used to play her a variety of kids’ worship music. She loved music, even as a baby, and it was something we could all enjoy. Of course the classic song, “I’ve Got Peace Like a River,” always came on our playlist.

As I’ve thought about peace, it seems odd to say “peace like a river.” This line found in hymns and kids’ songs alike feels paradoxical to me. I’ve encountered several different physical rivers across my lifetime -– and hardly any seem peaceful.

I’ve seen peaceful ponds and puddles. Maybe a placid lake or a gentle stream. But a peaceful river?

Rivers are massive bodies of water that move tons of water a long distance. I am not a swimmer, but I do not imagine swimming in a river to be too peaceful an experience. Maybe in a calm portion of it. But the river as a whole will have several tumultuous portions, for sure.

So, why do we compare peace to something that can be a violent current of water? What is it about a river that’s offered as a vehicle of peace?

Perhaps it’s because peace is not always stillness around us but a stillness within us, even amidst turbulence.

Being LGBT+ means that I am often in a turbulent place. Either I am around other Christians who don’t understand my identity, or I am around other LGBT+ individuals who don’t understand my convictions, or I am around people who cannot grasp either thing.

Even most of my own family doesn’t fully understand or accept me as a queer man.

How can I have peace when my existence causes turbulence around me? Can even a violent rush of the river compare at times with the environment where I often dwell? How much less could peace mean to me?

And how do I live out this peace?

Dean in May 2020

Honestly, what the actual f*** was I thinking?

My analogy from 2019 became more reality than I thought possible. Life this year became a raging river, taking me in the current and dragging me kicking and screaming down a course I never longed to go.

I had so many conversations in which I made it clear to my friends, my wife, and God directly: I DO NOT WANT PEACE ANYMORE.

Peace was not going to provide me income. Peace would not put food on the table. It definitely wasn’t going to keep the bills paid. And peace would never be able to keep my wife and daughter safe.

I was done with peace.

Then, due to my need for income, I traveled with my daughter to Florida to work for my sister for eleven straight days. The intense amount of stress cannot be accurately described.

During a worldwide pandemic, I split up my family by hundreds of miles, working for nearly two weeks, entrusting my daughter to be all right with my taking her to an unknown place, left to play with cousins she didn’t know, while I worked twelve hours a day.

The river had dragged me into an endless ocean with no respite in sight.

While in Florida, I penned some words in a journal. I won’t share the whole thing — just the repeating phrase. Each line, I started with the words: “If nothing else . . . ”

Amidst all of this stress, I had one thing to depend upon — Christ. He was it. I had literally nothing else.

“If nothing else . . . ” I still belonged to Christ.

“If nothing else . . . ” I still had an eternal hope.

“If nothing else . . . ” God is still God.

God did not abandon me — even when I was ready to abandon God. This lesson was larger than my sexuality.

“If nothing else,” God is with me — queerness and all.

And that brings a greater peace than I ever thought possible.

Do you struggle to find, maintain, or simply rest in God’s peace? When have you most experienced His peace, despite life’s circumstances?

About the Author

  • I’ve never stopped to consider that rivers are quite often chaotic, not peaceful. I love how you picked apart that simile, though. A stillness within. It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a very unpeaceful year for the whole planet. And yet what a hope we believers may cling to. Now more than ever, when so much has been taken away, I need Christ. And Christ remains.

    • Yeah, the concept of a river of peace has been on my mind a lot lately. This year has definitely been a torrential river — makes me look for that peace from Christ all the more intently.

  • Upending your life and splitting up your family sounds pretty brutal, props to you for doing it anyway. Growing up, my dad used to tell me a man’s gotta do whatever it takes to support his family. You’re that guy Dean. And I get what you’re saying about rivers being brutal. In college, we used to go tubing up the New River in VA. It was good, a cooler fit in its own tube, it was good until the river dropped and became rapids. You could usually make it thru no harm, but when the river’s low & the bigger rocks were above the water, you’d be banging against them all the way. And God help you if you flipped over and had to swim it.
    Your post got me remembering another river. I canoed 4 hours solo on the Thornapple River in MI. It’s not a big river, about 100 ft wide, double that at its widest, no rapids that I saw, and mostly forest both sides. That day there was no wind & the only sounds were birds and my paddle in the water. It was super relaxing. But passing homes, sound travels really good on the water and you could hear people talking, laughing, some arguing and even one guy trying to hit on a girl. That river got me seeing things different, picturing all the good and bad that happens in life as the stuff along shore, and the river as the peace and grace of God that runs thru your life, carrying you thru everything and getting you home safe.

  • Amen. When I’ve heard “peace like a river,” I’ve always thought of the raging river as the peace itself. Not that a river is calm, but that God’s peace is so powerful and forceful that it cannot be stopped or contained. Rather, it rages over us abundantly. I really like how you put it though, how we find a gentle calm in the middle of raging rapids. Regardless of how you frame it, life throws utter chaos at us, and yet God’s peace still powerfully and relentlessly finds us.

  • sorry, i am confused. so you are gay but you are married to a woman? or do you mean you are bisexual? sorry, English is my second language, I just want to clarify….

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