In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14, we read the account of Jesus walking on the water. In this story the disciples, in a boat fighting a strong wind, see Jesus walking on the water beside the boat and think he’s a ghost which scares the heck out of all of them. Jesus said to them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” Peter, being his impetuous self responds, “Lord, if it’s you, bid/command me to come to you on the water.” A request Jesus was more than happy to accommodate. Peter stepped out and as most of us know began walking on the water to Jesus. Matthew tells us that at some point Peter began looking around and taking note of the fierce wind or some other distraction and began to sink crying out “Lord save me!”
In this story there is one thing that prompted me to wonder: What was it about Peter’s lack of faith, in other words his doubting, which Jesus points out, that caused his sinking? It was the looking around at the circumstances that actually caused him to start the downward fall into the water. Focusing on the circumstances put a hole in his faith vessel and down he went.
I can recount many times in my life when – for lack of a better description – my wild-eyed faith prompted me to do things I might normally not do, like walk on water. Being no surprise, after a few steps I began to look around and not only be amazed that there was water under my feet, but that there were also some pretty strong headwinds buffeting me. Little wonder that in no time my attention changed from the water to the wind and down I went. Unlike Peter, I often did not cry out “Lord, save me” but began thinking why did I even think I could walk on water? What made me think my faith was ever strong enough to do such a foolish thing? Consequently, I convinced myself to stay in the boat!
I’ll admit, I need to get out of the boat. I need to take those steps of faith and trust in the Lord to get me to my destination. But it’s so much safer in the boat. Boat safety doesn’t mean the winds won’t blow and the waves won’t be breaking over the bow, but in the boat I feel safe. And feeling safe is important to many of us. We’re not in the routine of risk taking or water-walking. Which means we miss the exhilaration of water under our feet, the new blessings of unexpected measure.
Right now I’m starting a new chapter in my life and it’s a bit disconcerting. I say “new” but in reality it’s a chapter I never finished writing simply because I was afraid to get out of the boat. I’ll admit, I’m not sure my faith is strong enough to do that now, but I’m willing to give it another go. I’m willing to take the risk, put a leg over the side of the boat and begin walking. This time, when I get that sinking feeling I hope to kick pride aside and call out “Lord, save me!”