I like having control of things. I like doing things my way. I like being the one making decisions. I like thinking that I'm the one keeping things together and that everything is running smoothly because of me. I don't need any help. I've got this.
But then a storm comes and rocks the boat. And all of a sudden I've completely lost control. Well, I was never actually in control. I just though I was.
Storms can be scary! Especially when it's dark and there is thunder and lightening and wind. Peter knows what I'm talking about. Not only was Peter caught in a raging storm, he was caught in a raging storm outside, in a boat, on the water. Peter was caught in this storm for quite a while, possibly even 4 days. I can't imagine how terrifying that would be. And miserably cold, and wet, and exhausting.
I've come across the story of Jesus walking on the water several times in the past week. It's a story that I can very much relate to right now. I can relate to Peter in the boat, and I want to be even more like Peter on the water. Read the story (Matthew 14:24-32) and try to put yourself in Peter's shoes...
"The boat was a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, 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 is you, tell me to come to you on the water," said Peter. "Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards 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, why do you doubt?" And when they climbed in the boat, the wind died down."
What a powerful story. A few things I notice when reading this story...
- Jesus came to them out of nowhere, in the most unexpected way.
Jesus tends to do that, doesn't he? He hardly ever shows up how I would expect him to. Sometimes I don't even recognize him and he completely catches me off guard. But he shows up in my moment of need when I am overwhelmed with fear. Thank God he shows up.
- FEAR was the dominant emotion in Peter and the disciples.
How easy it is to live life in fear. One of the reasons I like to have control is because I think that if I'm in control then there will be less unknowns. And I often fear the unknown.
- Peter asks that Jesus draw him out to the water, to be with him. Peter did not ask Jesus to come into the boat.
This is how I want to be more like Peter. I usually want Jesus to come into my story and sort things out on my turf. I don't want to have to step out of my boat and into the waves. That sounds terrifying. Stepping out of my story means giving up "control" and stepping into the unknown. For Peter, stepping out of the boat and onto the water meant completely trusting Jesus. That is one bold step! But Jesus calls us into his story. The invitation is there. And his story is way better than ours.
- Even after Peter stepped out of the boat in pursuit of Jesus, he took his eyes off of Jesus.
Deciding to walk towards Jesus is the first step. But it's easy to lose sight of him, and as soon as we do we start to sink. Fear and worry seems inevitable for us humans. The only way to keep fear and worry from drowning us is to try to stay focused and keep our eyes on Jesus.
- When Peter cried out for help, Jesus immediately reached out and saved him.
Crying out for help is really hard for me to do. Because it means that I have to come to God in my weakness and ask for help. This is the point in which I have to admit "I don't have this." And God looks straight at me and says, "I know. I've got this." And all I have to do is take his hand and trust him. What a relief!
- When they finally climbed back in the boat and were together, the wind calmed down.
The calm after the storm comes when you hand your worries and fear over to God, follow his lead, and rest in his presence.
This past week has been a tough one for me. I've experienced a storm of loss and sadness, chaos and confusion, hopelessness and fear. This isn't the first storm in my life and it definitely won't be the last. Many storms I've experienced in the past have lasted way too long, because for some reason I decided to sit in the boat with my head down, letting the rain continue to drench me. I'm so grateful for Peter's example. He's taught me to look out into the storm and focus on Jesus who is walking towards me with his hand out saying, "Come on out, Mary. Step out of the boat and onto the water with me. I've got this."
Trusting Jesus is so much easier said than done. But the truth is, I don't actually want control! I want to hear God say, "I've got this." And I want to respond, "If this is what you have for me, ok. I trust you." Trusting Jesus means fully handing over my fears and stepping into his story without conditions, expectations, or timelines. So right now I am stepping out of the boat on my own, taking those first shaky steps through the waves, and making my way towards Jesus where I can grab his hand and let him lead me on the water.
I'm kind of obsessed with this song right now: