“Let me say that a miracle is no cute thing but more like the swing of a sword.”
–Reuban Land, main character in Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
I read this wonderfully written book recently and was struck by the author’s ability to summarize and foretell pivotal events in the story through profound statements that capture much more than merely guiding the reader along the plot of a good book. Peace Like a River is a story that is woven from start to finish with the miraculous. Here are some of my favorite “miracle quotes” (in bold) from the story, and how they led me into thinking more about the miraculous in my own life and experiences.
I was sitting in church, listening to a message about God’s righteous anger toward sin, hearing for the first time that I was a sinner upon whom God’s anger rested. The Lord struck me with the sword of the Spirit, His Word. It pierced my soul and blood began to flow. Not my own blood, but the blood of Christ was poured out on me, purifying me from my sin. As Reuben so insightfully understood, “A miracle contradicts the will of earth”. I had been following the course of this world (“the will of earth”), gratifying the cravings of my sinful nature (Eph 2:1-3), not realizing that I was among the walking dead on this earth. Suddenly, the eyes of my understanding became crystal clear, so that I knew without a doubt that I was on the losing side. I was a sinner in need of the saving grace of Christ. Without Him, I’d be eternally lost, without God and without hope in the world.
Then the miraculous happened–Christ saved me! His blood freed me from my sin. I repented of my bold rebellion and turned to face Christ as my Savior and Lord. It was a miracle that catapulted me from mindlessly serving as the enemy’s minion to joyful service as a warrior in the army of God. “No miracle happens without a witness. Someone to declare, Here’s what I saw. Here’s how it went. Make of it what you will.” (Reuben’s sister Swede). Now, armed with the appropriate defenses–the helmet of salvation, belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, and the shield of faith–I stand ready to yield my weapon, the sword of God’s Word, for the salvation of others and for attacking the plots and schemes of the enemy against my own soul. Now I get to be a witness. I get to tell others what I saw God do in my own life. How He saved me when I didn’t even know I was lost. And the same gospel that the Lord used to save me, I have the privilege of proclaiming to others, and hoping to witness the same miracle performed in the heart and life of another.
“People fear miracles because they fear being changed–though ignoring them will change you also” (Swede).
Just recently, a new friend asked me to share my assessment of him as a person. Based on prior conversations we’d had, and on my experiences with others who struggle with the sacrifices that Christ demands of them in following Him–“Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15); “deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16:24); “Be holy” (1 Pet 1:15-16); “Do not love the world” (1 John 2:15)–how would I answer such a bold yet vulnerable question? Basically, I responded by saying, “I don’t know you very well, but based on conversations we’ve had, and what I’ve observed, you seem to be a very nice guy. You have a big heart and you have a desire to know and follow God, and that’s great! But you also seem to be afraid of what you may have to give up if God saved you and you became a Christian.”
As soon as I said those words, tears welled up in this young man’s eyes, each teardrop adding up the cost of following Christ. He walked away sorrowful because he was afraid of being changed. But fear of being changed doesn’t stop the process, so I’m praying that even now the Lord would be changing his heart so that he would no longer fear the miracle of salvation, but the Sword would swing his way and he would embrace it.