Rafting Peace River

In Peace Like A River, the 2001 first novel by Lief Enger, the young protagonist's father, Jeremiah Land, is easily the book's most fascinating character. Jeremiah is more a fatherly presence than a "Dad," more divinely aligned than humanly grounded, and yet his spirituality seems utterly real and normal. At times looming like his Biblical namesake, Jeremiah reads and quotes Scripture, struggles with mental demons, even drives miscreants out of the temple—well, out of a high-school locker room. Yet Jeremiah's prayers, and what can only be interpreted as a divine response to them, are convincingly rendered, and more as marvels than miracles. He brings his stillborn son to life with prophet-like faith in a holy, in-breathing Spirit, and in one moment of credible need rather than special-effects drama, he defies physics to move effortlessly through space.

These days, peace certainly can seem as spacey and out of reach as it does to Enger's Land family, at least when we're feeling over-informed about the welter of events in the news, or perhaps a bit under-inspired. But getting to real peace is a matter of seizing opportunities. It's seizing the moment to cross the turbulent waters of a rocky relationship and ask for renewal, or to ask for nothing and offer a hand. On the wider stages of international conflicts, the peace-seeker can seize opportunities to be the peacefulness he or she wants to see take hold abroad; can disagree with any dark argument of incurability or of human predisposition to kill. And in an instant, prayer can defy time/space confines and mentally go to the scene of a conflict to spread the balm that heals rifts.

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January 16, 2006
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