The unknown can be frightening.
I wish someone would just tell me what to do. Can you relate? I’m not talking about trying to figure out what outfit to wear, or where to go to dinner – although sometimes I wish someone would figure that out for me too.
What I’m talking about is not-life-or-death. But, it is something that will impact my life in some pretty dramatic ways. So, left, or right? Which way do I go?
I just wish God could hand me a list of clearly defined next steps. A list, a flowchart, or even a modest step-action table would do. I pray, “Dear God, I want a definitive map that clearly tells me what comes next.”
In short, I want the exact opposite of faith.
Friends, this should not come as a surprise – I’ve told you before that I am a planner. That trait has served me well in many areas of my life – especially within the function of my day job which involves project work. Being able to define the steps to get from one point to another comes in handy when you’re designing a lesson plan. But not so much when you’re navigating the waters of a faith walk.
I’ve started to see where my ability to figure out the steps needed to accomplish a task or reach a destination are directly opposed to trust and faith. As Christians, we’re supposed to trust enough to fearlessly step into the unknown, Right?
Right away I think of the story in Matthew 14:22- 33. It begins with the disciples casting out to sea after spending a day watching Jesus do astonishing things. The story begins immediately after Jesus just fed five thousand people with a few scraps of bread and a couple of fishes!
Miracle aside, Jesus sends them off to sea while he remains on shore to pray. The plan was to meet up with him, but we don’t know much more about when or where at this point. What we do know is the current and wind were strong enough to push them a considerable distance out in the water. So, by morning their boat had drifted into deep waters.
Now these guys had traveled by boat many times, so I have to imagine they felt somewhat comfortable on the water. Plus, I picture them as fairly rugged men. I mean, before Jesus they were fishermen, and tax collectors and such. Yet, it’s interesting that when they realized a man was walking on the sea towards them, they shriek. I imagine a high-pitched squeal. Okay, in all honesty it doesn’t say they actually “squealed,” but it plays out that way in my imagination, and it’s likely how many of us would behave.
I can just imagine these burley men in a complete tizzy because they think they’ve seen a ghost. Honestly, I love that picture because it makes them so much more relatable to me. Friends, can I confess? I’m a complete chicken and I know I’d have lost it if I thought I saw a spirit coming towards me – and in the middle of the sea no less! It’s comforting to know even the decuples had moments of human fear.
I get that level of terror. When that kind of fear comes over you, it’s hard not to react, and it takes a lot to trust.
As Jesus gets closer to the boat he tells them not to be afraid which I imagine calmed them down since they now realized he was not an apparition. But, how stunned do you think they were to realize the guy they hung out with, ate with, talked with was no walking on water. Mind blown!
And it’s exactly at that moment when Peter says what everyone else was probably thinking. “Prove it.”
What I find most amusing though is that Peter’s version of “prove it” is to have Jesus call him out onto the deep water. What? How about verifying it’s you in some way that doesn’t involve potential bodily harm to me? How about that?
Peter asked, though, so Jesus calls him out on the water. Peter steps out of the boat, and takes a few steps. At this point I am in awe. What kind of blind faith drives a man to leave a perfectly good boat and step onto a very deep, and very dark sea? It’s impressive, and the fact that he’s doing it seems like a reward for the level of trust he has.
And then it happens. In an exhibit of humanity Peter becomes anxious… and in a breath of a moment he begins to sink.
And how can we blame Peter? If I have to wonder if I’d have had enough faith to get out of the boat – let alone try to walk on water. And even if I did how many steps would it take for me to let fear creep in and cause me to doubt?
The kind of faith that’s needed to conquer fear in the deep requires a connectedness to God that transcends human reason. It means we have to trust when everything around us does not make sense. That’s what our fiend Peter did – he believed.
Peter understood the depth of the sea. He knew walking on water does not make sense in the physical world. He had mightily faith that drove him to be bold.
It’s the kind of faith I need to decide which way to go. I need bold faith that is willing to step into the deep. Still… what if….
Then I’ll do what Peter did. In the end, even though human nature got the better of him, and caused him to doubt, he still had the faith to know that Jesus was right there and would save him.
As he began to sink, his very next words were, “Jesus, save me!” And Jesus did.