Sink, Tread or Walk?

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

A man finds an open door in the middle of a storm and tsunami

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31

As each day passes, life continues to change and redirect us in an as-yet-unknown and definitely unchosen pathway. Some people are horrified, for all they sought to accomplish in life seems to be slipping away right before their eyes. Others worry as resources are strained, regular activities and responsibilities are on indefinite hold, and children grow weary of lockdown conditions. Everyone is concerned. Whatever tomorrow brings, it will be different than today.

On the other hand, a friend recently told me he and his wife had enjoyed longer, more meaningful, and more diverse conversation than they had in years. After daily school – online or otherwise – is finished, the sounds of children’s laughter and play bounce down the street, especially in the cul-de-sac in which my house sits. Without afterschool care and with the suspension of extra-curricular activities, children across a surprisingly wide breadth of ages are engaging in the pastime of my own childhood: playing together. Bicycles and water guns and sidewalk chalk fill the neighborhood. Looking for unexpected spots of joy helps.

I have been watching the ongoing social media debate over whether we should learn new languages and repaint our homes during our time at home, or simply be grateful that we survived another day with a minimum toilet paper and without filing for divorce. The thing is, it’s not an either/or situation. Regardless of what we want, change is happening, and life will not go back to what it used to be. For some, this is a nightmare. There are families who are sitting in shock, helpless to do anything about the downward spiral of all that they have built together. Income has dropped, if not been lost completely, and bills are mounting. Tensions are greater, and fault lines in marriages are being revealed. Noisy, bored children respond to tense undercurrents by whining, arguing, and throwing tantrums. Even as children play and folks visit, for some, those moments are but a brief respite from intensifying pressures for which there appears to be no resolution.

We are, proverbially speaking, in the middle of a horrific storm. Regardless of how dire our circumstances are, we still have a choice to consider. We can choose to sink, to tread water, or to walk.

Jesus and His disciples were in Nazareth when Jesus received word that John the Baptist was beheaded. The pressure was intensifying as Herod sought to maintain control and get along with the Romans, and Jesus, mourning the loss of John, withdrew in seclusion with His disciples. A large, fearful, and weary crowd sought Jesus after John’s beheading, and in spite of His wish to be alone with His disciples, Jesus had compassion, healed the sick, and fed them all. Still desiring time to pray after the crowd dispersed, Jesus sent His disciples ahead by boat. A storm blew in, and their boat was battered by waves when, in the dark hours before, Jesus walked across the water to meet them in the lake. The text says the disciples were terrified when they saw Him. I totally get that.

We know the story. Peter asked Jesus to let him walk on water also, thereby proving that the One they saw really was Jesus. Sure enough, at Jesus’ command, Peter got out of the boat and started toward Him. Then, Peter became afraid and started sink.

That is the moment at which we need to look closely. Jesus walked on the water in the middle of a storm. The disciples were terrified, and Peter wanted to walk to Jesus if it was really Him walking on water. Then, Peter looked at the wind and waves crashing around them. He didn’t just stop looking at Jesus. No, Peter looked at the high waves that could flip a boat and easily drown a man, and Peter began to sink.

Isn’t that what we do? We look at the wild, high winds of change blowing through our lives, and suddenly, the dangers we face are crystal clear. Huge waves crashing around us leave us terrified that we will be washed away by the storm. All we can see is the danger, the impending disaster, the loss…

What impresses me about Peter’s story is that he had the courage to get out of the boat. Jesus admonished Peter for his little faith, but before He could admonish do so, Jesus had to get to him. Jesus was far away enough that the disciples were not sure what they saw was truly Jesus. Peter got out of the boat to walk on the water to Him for proof that the apparition they thought they saw was actually Jesus. Yet, when Peter cried to Jesus to save him, Jesus was immediately there.

That is what we need to hear: Jesus responded immediately to Peter’s cry. As we live through these changing times and along the chaotic, confusing pathway into tomorrow, Jesus responds immediately when we call, too. Jesus may seem far away, and to be sure, we do not always recognize when He is walking toward us. But, as Christians, rather than focus at how high the waves are or how dangerously the wind blows, we are called by Jesus to get out of the boat and walk on the water. The Word Who spoke creation into existence is walking to meet us, unfazed by the waves, undeterred by the winds.

Should we all be accomplishing great things during our enforced time off? I don’t know. I do know we should expect more from our God than dog paddling or treading to stay afloat. Life may change. Life will change. Some days, treading water is an accomplishment, but that should never be our goal. Instead of looking at the wind and the waves that threaten to wash us away, let us look for the Lord Who is coming to meet us.

Lift up the eyes of your soul. The One Who holds the universe in His hand is reaching out to you.

In Christ –

Rev. Elizabeth Moreau – © 2020

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