Have you ever watched someone do something you regard as crazy? Do you get that heaving sickness inside as their serenity triggers “flight or fight” in you? I have. Someone shared a video on Facebook that did that to me. Someone calmly meandering around the tops of tall buildings as though out for a Sunday stroll. They were as cool as a cucumber. I had to click off the video before I peed my pants (literally).
As I read today’s verses, I wondered if those left in the boat felt anything similar. Not all of them were sailors and seamen. Some were landlubbers like me. Walking ON water? In a STORM? Way out from LAND? Anyone need a wee yet?
I had a girlfriend who was a sailor. She wanted to spark my love of the water. I like water! I have a shower every day! I brush my teeth – I know water!! But in a small dinghy-thing, with the boat tilting and lurching, and the wild water all scary and malevolent, with my pride being the only thing that stopped me bursting into tears, from yelling “I wanna go home!” … ? She had a great time in what she saw as a little pond, in a little boat, with a little wind. And just to complete this romantic tale … ?
I eventually accepted (eventually!) that my “girlfriend” only ever saw me as a “good mate” without any romantic feelings at all! I vowed never to try to impress anyone ever again! But I did! Hormones! Always hormones!
“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.” Matthew 14:22-36
So here is Peter the Impetuous! The fisherman and sailor. The only one who even thinks of sitting on the edge of a boat – in a force ten – in the middle of the night! My pride would have been the only thing that stopped me bursting into tears! And then he hops out! In a force ten. In the middle of the night! I wonder if the disciples swore under their breath a little? What if – and how would we – and would that mean – and how safe are we trying to save him! Crap he’s sinking – knew he would – we are all done for – is this my life I see flashing in front of me – that water suddenly feels very warm … oh double crap … !
I think that the reality of “… and will you, my brothers and sisters, leave our “boat” and walk on water with Him … ?” is far from the revival meetings, sermons, bible study groups, and safe church buildings in which we normally ponder these verses – either being fired up to “let’s all go out there and get ’em and bring ’em back here full of God!” … or reflecting on the profound insights in the peace and quiet of a small group.
I think the reality is peeing your pants, watching in horror, biting your tongue because all you want to scream is “Not me Lord – not this – I can’t do this – I wanna be home!” And that scream takes different forms: “we live in a fallen world … come back for us now Lord … take us away from all this sin and pain … I am weary Lord, I have done my bit for You, give me Your peace dear Father …”
As well as that more insidious murmuring: I cannot volunteer for this or that role – I always do (???) that evening … I don’t get on with him/her – we could never work together … I don’t believe we should do that “this way” – we have done that “this way” … Who are they to tell us what we should be doing …
Getting out of the boat and walking on water is not a “gung-ho” thing we do to impress our girlfriend, our church, our house-group, our council, or our committee – or even (God forbid) Jesus! I think getting out of the boat is “being” Simon Peter from time to time. Is having a one-to-one relationship with YOUR own God Soft Hands Jesus. Is looking at the “stormy waters” and feeling safe because of YOUR experience and skills … YOUR gifts and personality. Just like Simon Peter – the fisherman and sailor who felt safe enough to even ask.
And then … what happens next is not between anyone else other than you and your God. No one else. For that is when the doubts creep in. The fear returns. The “I wanna go home” screams out (particularly when we look around and see others peeing their pants and mouthing “Don’t do this to us, you hot-headed selfish b****d!”).
Faith is a funny old thing.
I think “faith by sight” is becoming more and more common. Faith … so long as we can see light at the end of the tunnel … so long as we all agree … so long as we all go forwards together. Because that “faith by sight” will inevitably keep us all in the boat telling each other to stay put. We don’t all have the same gifts, nor the same experiences, nor the same personalities. Ever wondered if that is for a reason?
Because from time to time He will walk alongside us. He will invite one or more of us to join Him “out there”. And unless we all walk in “faith without sight” – none of us will EVER step out to join Him. We will all sit there debating and recommending more meetings and committees – pushing it into the “long grass” – all convincing each other “it is a ghost – it is not of the Lord – don’t do this to us you selfish b***d!”
And might He not then look at you and me and say: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
We each have skills and experience. That diversity is for a reason. That reason is strength. Maybe “faith without sight” is learning to trust in each other – the “Him in each other” – not just ours in Him. But that cuts across seniority, reasoning, cool calculation, group-think, corporate decision-making … all the “stuff” we have become so familiar doing and “being” … all the stuff we are so safe doing and being .. all the stuff we cling to as we watch the stormy waters all around.
So when He invites another … ‘Come.’ …
What then will my response be – and what will yours be?