Walking on Water

Over a year ago I got a tattoo to celebrate 10 years of being a cancer survivor. I chose a scripture that reminded me of my need for God and of His faithfulness to me. I didn’t realize at the time how often I would need that reminder. My  mind knows that God is faithful…that He has come through in the past and that He will again. My heart even knows this. But for some reason I still doubt.  It’s not that I question Him persay..but I question if what I’m chasing after is really from Him, or if I’m chasing after the ghosts of my own desires. Right now I’m not at a place in my life that I am really satisfied. I don’t think I should be. I am living life day to day and talking it one step at a time. Which is fine. But I need to know that I am doing the right things…that I’m not just wasting my time.

The other night I read a scripture that I have read a hundred times before. I have heard this oh so familiar passage in Matthew about Jesus walking on water since I was a toddler.  The problem with familiarity is that I tend to skim passages like this, thinking I know all there is to know about this particular story. But this time while reading it, some things stood out to me.

Matthew 14:22-33

 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 First of all, Jesus had just fed over five thousand people so I imagine He is kind of exhausted.  He sends his disciples on ahead of him and they get in the boat and go accross the lake. He goes up on a hillside to pray.
At this point, I have to stop and wonder if it crossed any of the disciples’ minds how exactly Jesus was going to catch up to them in the middle of the lake…but anyways: When Jesus is done praying, He decides to take a stroll on out to meet them. It’s windy and not the best sailing weather, so the disciples are already on edge. When they see someone approaching the boat, walking on water,  some of them yell, “It’s a ghost!”
I can imagine Jesus laughing internally and saying “It’s me, you fools! You don’t have to be scared!” And then of course Peter, who is notorious for his loud mouth, speaks up and says ” Lord, if it is you then tell me to come to you.” I don’t think Peter is asking for Jesus to prove that He is who He says He is. It isn’t about Peter doubting that this man is Jesus. Instead I believe that Peter was asking for an opportunity to test his OWN faith. After all, what Peter is essentially saying is, “Lord, if it is you, then you can help me walk on water. I believe that you can.”
So Jesus tells Peter to come on out. Peter steps out of the boat and finds himself planting firm steps on the surface of the water. All is well as He walks closer to Jesus. Then suddenly He realizes, Oh yeah! It’s kind of stormy out here… His faith begins to falter – and He begins to sink.
I can relate this to my own life. I think we all probably can. I am sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake. It’s dark and windy, and I can’t really see which way I’m supposed to be going. Then I see this figure…this opportunity…whatever it may be. And I wonder if it is an opportunity from God or if it is one those aforementioned “ghosts of my own desire”. But I call out and say “Lord, if it is you then help me take these steps of faith.” And I hear Him say “Come.”
So I step gingerly over the side of my boat, and begin to walk on the waves toward Jesus. He demonstrates that He is All-Knowing and All-Powerful and able to do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine. I stay the course toward Him until one wave smacks me particularly hard. And I think, Wait. It’s really scary out here! Is this really what God wants me to do?!  It’s at that point that I start to sink.
Then while I am flailing around, splashing and choking, Jesus is literally a foot away waiting for me to come to my senses. And like Peter, all I have to to do is ask for Him to save me…from myself. From my own unbelief.One of the most amazing parts of this passage to me is the very end. Verse 33 says :
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The whole time that Peter was out walking on water – and yes, sinking and in need of salvation- the other disciples were in the boat watching. I wonder how many people are watching my life right now; watching the steps I take in faith, or the times I sink down in unbelief. I wonder if at the end of my story, the same can be said of my life. That maybe other people who are in the same boat I was in can see God’s faithfulness demonstrated even in my doubting.  And maybe they will say to Jesus because of what they have seen Him do in my life, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” And maybe, just maybe they will walk on water too.

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