On Sunday children worship, I taught a new song, an English one at that, to the only kid we had in attendance. The song was Peace like a River, a song that I sang in school when I was a little kid, several years older than the kid I was teaching it to.
It was a fun song when sang with the different actions. I sang the song once and then we sang together. Afterward I suggested we make up actions for "peace" and "river". I remember the actions I did when I was a kid, but I wanted the child to participate and have the opportunity to make up her own action. It would make it more interesting for her.
She liked it and I went ahead and taught the other verses with "joy like the fountain" and "love like the ocean", and we even did the finale with "I've got peace, joy, love like a river, fountain, ocean...". Man, this song is a classic, it is still able to work up children in the digital age. We had a lot of fun doing the actions and singing it. We all enjoyed it.
The night before, I was looking up the lyrics (just to be safe, I know the lyrics by heart. Prove that things learned as a kid are the ones most memorable), and I was wondering why this is Sunday school song. It has no Jesus, God, Lord or cross in it. And for a second I wondered, "Peaceful like a river? Are rivers peaceful? The images of I have of rivers aren't that peaceful, but the City Gate River in Shatin is pretty peaceful."
Today, I went into this blog and the writer asked the same question I had but went further and thought about it. Here's what he wrote:
"I’ve got peace like a river,
I’ve got peace like a river,
I’ve got peace like a river
In my soul.
Is that really what we have?...
What is peace really? Is it the absence of war or bullets? Is it the absence of depression or poverty? Some, like that particular minister, would argue it is the assurance we feel over our lives. But if Christ came to give us peace in that sense, why does it seem our world is on fire? Why do we fear for our lives, health, finances and security?
I like that the writer used the word river to describe the peace we have in Christ. I mean, what’s peaceful about rivers? This isn’t a creek trickling through the ravine in our backyard. Imagine rafting through the Colorado as it cuts through the Grand Canyon or remember the Mississippi and all the lives that she’s claimed. These are unpredictable waters that can destroy homes with floods and take lives with their undercurrents; there is nothing peaceful about them.
So why would the writer use such an ironic metaphor? I think this hymn I sang so blissfully in Sunday school is communicating a far more profound truth than we would first notice. Maybe the writer understood that this life and this walk with Christ would be filled with painful, unpredictable and sometimes crushing experiences and maybe it is in this truth that they wrote those words.I do not think that Jesus came to give us peace in the world’s terms. I don’t think He came so that we could hope in the things of this world, whether it means security, financial stability, or health. No, instead I think Jesus came to give us something totally different; an inward peace - a hope in a promise of restoration. And that is something to sing about."