Monday, April 22, 2013

Turning from peace

I love the hymn “Where Can I Turn For Peace?” Emma Lou Thayne’s text speaks to my heart and experience:

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

For me, the key is in the first stanza: “I draw myself apart.”

I have lived long enough to know how I draw myself apart.

I can feel it when it happens now. And fortunately it is not a common experience. But I am aware enough to see it, just the way I could see the impending accident years ago when a blown tire caused me to skid and spin and flip off a freeway in Venezuela. At that time, I took my foot of the accelerator; I counter-steered. And still I skidded and spun and eventually rolled over off the road and down the embankment where I landed a little bruised but otherwise none the worse for wear. (Not so my vehicle – it was totaled.)

An example: A harmless conversation that in an instant went poorly. I might have foreseen it, since it was a political question. But we’d talked about the subject before, so I assumed we agreed when in fact we didn’t. The disagreement set off my defenses, and I responded far too quickly. And as quickly as it started, communication ended, shut down. Silence.

There were no harsh and angry words exchanged. This was not a debate nor an argument. It was silence.

In my heart my aching grew. I sought that quiet hand to calm my anguish. I apologized, knowing an apology was not enough. I prayed silently for peace, for comfort, for guidance.

Here’s the remarkable thing: In the first stanza I find myself searching my soul with anger and malice, and yet I still crave the healing touch of my Savior. My aching grows as I realize my role, and I feel that anguish that comes in realizing my own weakness. My only choice is to seek mercy – the mercy of Him who has power to save, and the mercy of the person I’ve offended.

In that instance, as He spoke peace to my soul, so did my lovely wife. As He reached my reaching, so did she. Love without end, indeed.


  1. I haven't thought about this poem/hymn/scripture quite this way before. This hymn has always felt more like a psalm to me. Its reflection on the ways we feel *apart* and then search for ways to come back in line with the Savior, when *apartness* happens, has always seemed like it is plucked from psalms.

    I think it is beautiful to be able to see your wife and the Savior, reaching out with the same desire for onenes. In both cases, the Holy Ghost helps make that jump that allows us to leave *apart* and accept the offer to return. Most times, I find it easier to be the one reaching out, than the one accepting the reaching. Is that true for your experiences?

    Thanks for a beautiful morning thought.

  2. Julia, I don't know the poet, but I suspect your reading is more in line with the original intent. But that fourth line of the first stanza allows me still to find solace when I turn away from the Lord (and others) in anger. And it is a relief to know His mercy allows me to come back.

    Over more than three decades of marriage, my lovely wife and I have learned a dance of forgiveness and mercy, of accommodation and giving. Ours is not a perfect marriage, but it's a remarkable one, for which I am ever grateful (since I seem to be the one requiring mercy so often).

    There is little doubt that spiritual memory, including either the direct influence of the Holy Ghost, or the memory of his influence, helps me to bridge that gap from drawing myself apart to reaching.

    I will say this (hoping to say it well): this reaching that my wife and I enjoy in our marriage works both ways. I doubt it would work if either of us demanded the other to reach alone.