You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples. (Psalm 65:7, NRSV)
In the Spring of 1989, I was hired along with a group of other seminary students to work at the Kentucky Derby. My job was to oversee ticket takers to make sure they weren’t bribed into letting someone enter the gates without an official pass. It was quite a day, working on my feet for over 12 hours in the midst of a million other people. I’m happy to say there were no incidents on my watch. During the race, while everyone’s eyes were glued to the horses, I was even able to step away from my post and watch the race at the finish line, as the great Sunday Silence pulled away to win.
Having bipolar disorder, one thing I find difficult to do in ministry and life is deal with tumultuous crowds. When there is a lack of structure and my role is unclear, it can be very difficult for me to hang out and interact with others. I want to escape and find a quiet corner where I can hide and just spend time alone. Fortunately, at the Derby, I had a job to do and I could focus. My role was clear (though not necessarily appreciated by those trying to sneak in the gate). With God’s help, I was able to manage the crowd and had a memorable yet exhausting day.
God has repeatedly given me steady stillness in the midst of the tumult to carry out my functions. God has quieted the roaring of the seas, the waves, the tumult of the peoples – at least enough for me to get my job done. This has been true over the course of my illness, particularly in my nearly two decades of ministry.
One particular challenge came when I was asked to do a graveside funeral several for a community member and her four children who died in a house fire. The father, who was the prime suspect, sat in the front row, with police on either side. I stood in the front, under a large tent. There were hundreds of people in attendance. Local and national media had been cordoned off to the opposite side of the road, but some reporters snuck in. Immediately after the service, one came up to me and asked for a copy of the message.
Through all the external chaos – the carnival-like atmosphere – I was able to maintain my peace, thanks to the Spirit of God. I was able to share the hope of Scripture, not knowing how it would be received by the father in the front row, or by others who wondered how such a tragedy could happen.
Just as Jesus calmed the waves of the storm (Matthew 8:22-27), God stills the roaring of the seas we face in this life. We are able to navigate the waters with confidence and hope for smoother sailing ahead. We experience peace, even as the storms rage within and around us.