By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
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Equanimity is the first word from this entire sermon series that I had to look up. My best guess at what it might mean was something along the lines of “magnanimity," which is only because those words have similar vowel sounds.
But here we are on the cusp of Lent (How?) and I’m working my way to the end of the Words of Faith sermon series talking about a word that I couldn’t define. Not that I didn’t use it (look to last week’s blog)--but that I used it incorrectly to make myself sound smart (don’t look to last week’s blog if you want to maintain that illusion).
Jenn Sauer eloquently and excellently preached a good word about equanimity and talked about the disciples’ reaction to the storm that Jesus later calmed. They faced an incoming storm with panic, as contrasted with the equanimity that Jesus showed when he woke up from his nap and calmed the storm. Jenn says “they should have known that Jesus had their backs. If they had possessed real faith in the power of God working through Jesus, they could have shown the same kind of equanimity that Jesus did in those moments of terror."
I like the exploration of how we respond to the onset of difficult occurrences. What we do in the face of an unexpected disaster; how we respond in moments when our fight or flight instinct kicks in. Do we respond with equanimity in those times? Hopefully. But she also got me thinking about another miracle story that involved Jesus on the lake.
Matthew 14: 26-31: But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
We need to respond with equanimity in the face of new challenges, but what about when Peter was already on the water? He responded to Jesus telling him to do the impossible, and responded with aplomb, but then as he took more faltering steps, and as he took stock of his situation, the veil of equanimity dissipated. That’s a familiar feeling right now. The number of times that I’ve gotten out of the boat this past year is staggering. I walk out on faith, hoping that things will find their normalcy. I get out of the boat and dig into working from home. I get out of the boat and start doing things this past year that I never thought I’d be able to accomplish. But then I take a look around at what’s going on, and I lose my sense of equanimity. I start to sink; flailing around in the morass that is the world around us. And then someone reaches out, or something happens to cheer my spirits, or the world provides a gift, or a toddler starts giggling.
Oh me of little faith.
My equanimity is restored as my faith in humanity is restored. As my faith in the world is restored. As my friendships and relationships are restored. Equanimity is how you respond in the face of a sudden shock, yes, but hopefully we can maintain that equanimity in the times when we feel ourselves sinking.