Laurel Thomas



October 2013



Shalom in the River

Written by , Posted in Blog

There’s a canyon near Questa, New Mexico. Massive lava rocks line the gravel path leading to its floor, where the Rio Grand and Red River meet.

The Red River is pristine. It’s so clear you can watch brown trout shimmer against the polished stones lining its bed. The Rio Grande – not so much. It overwhelms the gentle Red with a torrent of muddy chaos as the two rivers converge.

A muddy river confronted my stillness one morning. Its murky force thrust itself into my clean, clear waters, turning them upside down and filtering silt in my emotions.

I thought about Moses and the Israelites camping by the Red Sea. Their deliverance from slavery led them to waters impossible to cross. Worse, as they looked behind, they saw the dust of every chariot in Egypt rise in billows of hot pursuit.

Things looked bad. Really bad.

One thing about God. He’s good. Okay, two. He’s bigger than any force that plots to take us out.

But how? Does He roll up His sleeves, lift His hand as a battering ram and crush the fear that rages against us?

Maybe. But most often, He promises Shalom.

Shalom, a Hebrew word, can’t be translated into English by a single word. It comes from the word, “shalem,” meaning complete. Where there is Shalom, there’s tranquility, wholeness, harmony and health – nothing good withheld. It’s the absence of disorder, injustice, lack, and evil.

There is an antithesis of Shalom. It is Ra.

Again, hard to translate. Here’s a picture to describe it. I have a beautiful bowl that’s just right for whatever deliciousness I can put into it. It’s blue Polish pottery, so it’s pretty, too. But the goal of its design is to hold food.

Here’s the definition of Ra in one image.

Someone walks into my kitchen, picks up my lovely bowl and hurls it across the room. It shatters.

The act that destroyed its function defines Ra.

Ra looms large in storms of life. It threatens to shatter our tranquility, steal our dreams and deposit the dirt of its chaos in us. Nothing makes sense or fits in Ra. It represents chaos, anarchy and all manner of evil. Bullies take over, might makes right. Freedom is bound and hopes are smashed.

God’s response to Ra isn’t a giant fist. It is Shalom in a Person. The One who stands like an invitation, waiting for our response.

Ra can’t exist in Shalom. But I’ve discovered a greater force. It’s my will. When I’m angry or someone is angry with me, when I’m misunderstood or maligned, I can choose Shalom, or give in to the flood of Ra. Each river responds to my choice.

How could such a simple decision be so powerful? I don’t understand it all. That’s okay. I can still choose the clarity of a spring-fed river in my soul- and expect it to flow in and out of me.

Shalom in the River,


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