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Peace attend my way

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Some years ago, I learned the story behind the hymn “It is Well With My Soul.” According to an article published online by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the meaning behind the song has to do with learned lessons experienced in the life of Horatio Spafford who was a successful attorney and real estate investor who lost a fortune in the great Chicago fire of 1871. Around the same time, his beloved 4-year-old son died of scarlet fever. During a vacation to England, the ship carrying his wife and four daughters wrecked at sea. Only his wife survived. As he voyaged to meet his wife, he wrote this beloved hymn while his ship passed over the very area where his daughters drowned. I believe Horatio Spafford experienced a washing of his soul when God gave him those words to write.

The first line of the song states: “When peace like a river attendeth my way.” I have asked several people to explain the words “attendeth my way” as they see it. Perhaps my favorite explanation has been that despite what is going on around you, peace “washes over you” in abundance like a mighty rushing river. Right now, I favor this meaning of those words because it provides a deeply moving word picture. Sentimental pictures sometimes help us manage emotions and challenges. This visual of purifying rivers washing over a human body is helpful considering all the pain and rage that is heavily weighing on our country and all around us. It reminds me of my own experience of soul washing.

When I first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, I was in a courtyard garden outside a chapel in Yokosuka, Japan. I was praying in the garden with friends. I vividly remember feeling as if water was doused on my head and pouring over me as I spoke to God in an unrecognizable language. It was as if I was standing under a waterfall. I felt so much peace. I forgot that there were other people with me in the garden. I wasn’t being baptized by water that evening, but I know that my spirit thirst for God so much that God washed me.

You may be asking, what does water have to do with peace? Water has so many meanings. In these song lyrics, Horatio wrote that the rivers “attendeth my way.”

When we bathe, it is a way of attending to ourselves. But the washing that we do only touches our skin. Our skin is the largest organ of the human body. Try as we might, we cannot do anything to change the skin that we are in. We cannot wash it off. For some of us, the truth of that statement robs us of our peace.

Lord, I just want us to experience that same peace that washed over me the night in that Yokosuka garden. Do it today. Do it for them. Do it for me. Do it for every nation. I am praying for real purification and not a simple pacifying. I wish I could give every one of my sisters and brothers that same experience right now. I feel they need it. These outcries all over the world are the result of stolen peace. Peace is not experienced by the skin. Peace is felt in our souls.

My prayer is for God to send the flowing rivers of peace to attend our way. The souls of the members of the black and brown community are thirsty. Wash us over and over again. Baptize us afresh … all of us. May the waters not only touch our melanated skin but immerse our very souls.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of nonprofit leadership and management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via QNikki_Notes or iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net.