I’ve got peace like a river
I’ve got peace like a river
I’ve got peace like a river
In my soul.

Who remembers that old hymn? Peace like a river.  But what does it mean?  

There are multiple rivers in the US. Some, like the Mississippi or the Missouri stretch for hundreds of miles, serving as a transportation hub from Grand Rapids, Michigan to New Orleans, Louisiana.  When I think of rivers, I tend to think of these.  But there are other rivers as well, all with distinctive personalities. 

 Some rivers seem to calmly meander around sandy bends of shoreline, shaded by large trees that cast shadowy reflections on the water. Like a lazy bear floating on his back, the river is in no hurry.  

There are other rivers, like the Mississippi, teeming with noisy, boisterous traffic of large boats, vying for space, like a runner, speeding past slower vessels who impede their progress towards commercial gain. 

And then there are the rapids.  There are rivers that churn angrily with turbulent rapids agitating the water like a petulant child throwing a tantrum.

So what is this peace you sing about?

Even the meandering rivers, while appearing slow and lazy, are actually not.  Just below the surface is all manner of activity.  Whether it is a school of catfish chasing bream for a meal on the go or an alligator rolling it’s prey in a frothy dance;  there is always something going on under the surface.  So how does the river appear so Calm?  Because, like all things in nature, all rivers have a purpose.  

The river’s purposes are many and accomplished both passively and assertively.   Passively, the river provides water for all creatures, a living environment for aquatic species, and a means of transportation for fishermen or commercial boats.  Assertively, the river carves out Earth’s geography by eroding rocks, banks and even mountains with its consistent, persistent pressure.  All day.  Every day.  

You have a purpose.  The first step to peace is embracing it.  You can also  choose to achieve your purpose passively or assertively.  

Do you feel turmoil churning inside as you go to work day in and day out listening to the trauma of others?  Do you look for validation from your clients or acknowledgement by your agency only to feel resentment if it Does not come?   Does restful sleep elude you as you lay wide-eyes in your bed thinking of all you have to accomplish the next day?  You may be choosing to try achieving your purpose passively.

Being passive in your purpose means just following the motions, doing all of your tasks as set out by policy and your supervisor.  By choosing passivity you can be allowing the job to use you up like the herd of cattle lapping at the rivers edge.   If not replenished daily, you will have nothing left to give others.  Yearning to be refilled, You could develop a hardened outer shell to protect you from being consumed.  Unheeded, the shell will grow over your eyes and ears blinding and deafening you to the things you should see and hear.   It will  eventually cover your heart, protecting it from compassion and mercy towards others.   Because you are unable then to fulfill your purpose,  you will leave the very mission to which you were called.

Bleak?  Yes.  But as Ebeneezer Scrooge found out in the movie A Christmas Carol,  the future is up to you.

To achieve peace with all the chaos and turmoil going on around you, identify and embrace your purpose.  Remember why you decided to pursue a career helping others.  Take time, when things are rough at work, to take stock in yourself.   I find it is helpful when I feel like I am losing my purpose, to stop and write down the things I have achieved that day, week or month.  I try to remember the priciple of erosion. It reminds me that even small things can eventually make a big impact.. A little bit.  Every day.

Think of the mother, afraid to talk about the abuse she is suffering at the hands of her boyfriend.  You were patient and non judgemental.  And it paid off.  Remember how you actively listened to her and helped her make choices to protect herself and her children.

Think about something as small as completing a purchase order for therapeutic visitation between a father and his teenage son.  Such a seemingly insignificant and meddlesome task. However,  without that P.O., they would not have been able to learn and practice better communication skills which helped them to rebuild their relationship.

When you can visualize your purpose, you,  like the river, begin to carve away at the barriers in each family.  Thus you can actually change the flow of the stream.  You can! But to truly achieve your purpose you have to be consistent every day.  That is how you facilitate change.  That is how you achieve your purpose.  

When you are operating according to your purpose, allow the knowledge and confidence in your small achievements to replenish your water so that there is no need for a protective shell.  You may not always see the change.  You must believe, like a river that can carve through a mountain a few grains of sand and rock at a time,that each task undertaken according to your purpose is creating positive change .  And never stop flowing.

Peace like a river?  Valuing yourself and reminding yourself of the part you play in creating opportunities for change can help you maintain peace as you rest in the satisfaction of a purposeful life.

8 thoughts on “Peace like a River

  1. Love that old hymn , thanks for posting that, I looked it up; When peace like a river attenders my way , when sorrows like sea billow roll . What ever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. It is well it is well with my soul….

    Liked by 2 people

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