Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all it’s sham drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world.
The first part of this stanza is the only line in the entire poem with which I have a ‘big’ problem. The whatever you conceive him to be line bothers me. There, I’ve said it. There has been a lot of question and speculation over this poem throughout the years – is it a “christian” poem, who really wrote it, etc. And, I don’t know the answers. I don’t know if this stanza is proof that the author (mostly recently credited to be Max Erham) was not writing anything remotely religious or not. I don’t know what the author intended, but I know how I take it to mean – and that is that God reveals Himself in many ways to many different people.
Don’t misread me, here. I firmly believe in one God, and one God alone.
But, I also believe that God reveals Himself in different ways to different people. God is most present to some people in nature and sunshine; to others, He is most present in friendship and relationships. To some, God is most present in music or the arts. God remains the same, but the way He communes with His people is as individual as the people He created. Some see God as the benevolent father; some see Him as an iron-fisted ruler. Often your history determines how you view your present with God. For me, God is always there, asking me to trust, believing in me, and knowing my questions before I ask.
So, that’s that. And the rest of this stanza is beautifully written and a good reminder – no matter what your current trial; no matter how much you hurt or are hurt; no matter where the path takes you, there is still beauty in the world. It may not always be obvious, but it is there. Our challenge is to find the beauty. And, that’s hard, especially when you look at the devastation in places like Japan right now. How can anyone there find beauty in anything when their world is torn apart? I don’t know that they can. At least not right now. But beauty will rise again. And that beauty will be mixed with tragedy; and together, they will create a different world; a new world. It won’t be the same, but there will still be beauty there. I have to believe that. I have to believe in the good that can come out of despair. For without the good, the despair would always win.