sinking in the familiar

Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, s...
rembrant's rendition of peter's storm dancing lesson

Matt. 14:24-32 But the boat was already long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 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?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.

I have been pondering this one a bit again.  Over and over the last few years something keeps hitting my spirit.  It did again today.

Peter is was a fisherman.  Peter knew wind and waves.  He knew water.  His life was spent on and around it.  Perhaps the hardest substances to walk in trust on are the ones we know the most about.  Perhaps the most difficult circumstances to have faith in are the ones we are the most familiar with.

Remember Peter wasn’t walking on a glassy sea.  He was walking on storm-tossed waters with high wind and waves buffeting his every move.  For an instant, just an instant, his gaze turned from Who he was trusting in Jesus to what he knew based on years of experience.  He didn’t sink because he saw the waves. You couldn’t help but see them. He began to sink when he let his past familiarity dictate his present focus and faith and turn it into fear.

Peter wasn’t really walking on water, he was actually walking on faith.  Faith is a substance.  It is substantial enough to step out on and change history.  Fear is not.  Walking on faith causes us to walk beyond the realm of natural limitations.  Fear chains us to our history and never lets us step beyond it .

The most challenging storms to dance in are the ones we know the most about.  Are we willing to lay down our experience at the cross and choose a posture of aggressive, determined, focused trust even in the face of old fears?  Storm dancing demands our focus be on His face or we will begin to sink in what we “know” by fear.

But Peter didn’t sink.  He didn’t swim back to the boat.  He turned his gaze from the familiar back Jesus’ face and cried out.  Immediately (notice immediately), Jesus picked him up and they walked back together.  Peter didn’t return in failure.  He returned closer and more dependent on the One, he walked with by faith.

I don’t imagine Jesus being at all stern with him when He came to his rescue.  The “oh you of little faith” had to have been said with a twinkle in his eyes.  Peter was walking on water WITH him hello.  All the other disciples were still in the boat.  Learning to walk in faith is like learning to walk in the natural.  I don’t chide my 18 month olds for falling down when they are learning to run.  I pick them up, spin them around until they forget the fall and tell them how proud I am of them for trying.  “Ok, let’s go again honey.”

Falling only becomes failure when you refuse to get back up or let fear keep you in the boat in the future.  And even then failure is only an opportunity to start again afresh.  It is never fatal unless we refuse to move beyond it.

Peter was a fisherman and knew water.  What is it that we know, that we might be called to abandon our natural knowledge of and in a storm learn to walk above?

I “know” many things.  I “know” hospitals and sickness as a veteran of 23 surgeries.  I “know” what it is like to live in a war zone with gun fire, pressing need and growing instability.  But in the middle of medical storms or a gales of circumstance swirling around me, will I let the familiar bring with it fear OR will I leap on the waves abandoned in arms of One who turns my stormy seas into dance studios.  It is a violent choice to stay in His gaze when all else screams to be noticed.

By His grace, I will not let my past interrupt my present or dictate my future.  But I know even if I do start to sink, He is there to pull me up and off we will go again!  The challenge is to stay in His gaze and trust Him above every other voice, even the voices of familiarity or history.  History then will be transformed by faith into an opportunity for HIS story to unfold in the middle of the stormiest, night seasons of our lives and storms truly will become invitations to dance in His arms!

3 thoughts on “sinking in the familiar

  1. ann power

    What a beautiful insight into “what we are familiar & know about.” I have often thought of this story in terms of keeping my eyes on Jesus, but not with the other piece. I’ll need to meditate on this. Many thanks Michelle!

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