Wind and Waves
Matthew 14:38-31 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
It is safe to say that I am obsessed with this story. Anyone familiar with my writing probably tires of how often I use Peter’s experience as a picture of faith. In my search to understand and define my own faith, I have come to appreciate this event as the defining example from which I am to learn.
In the story, the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night, battling a storm, when Jesus came, walking on the water. They were terrified, but Peter, who wanted badly to trust Jesus, asked for confirmation. Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. Jesus called Peter and to Peter’s credit, he obeyed.
I so often never leave the safety of the boat. There were eleven disciples who apparently did not have any desire to walk on the water with Jesus. I am afraid that I would have been one of them. Following God can be frightening and the more comfortable my lifeboat is, the less likely I am to abandon it.
Peter did get out though. He stepped out in faith and put his feet on the water. He did not know the water was going to hold him up until he put his weight on it but he kept his eyes on Jesus and he walked. Then, the reality of what he was doing hit him. He saw the wind and waves around him and he took his eyes off Christ. Immediately he began to sink.
Terrified, he cried out to the only one who could save him, Lord, save me! I can see Jesus maybe sighing and rolling his eyes a little. Why did you take your eyes off me? Why did you look to the wind and waves?
I am Peter. I long to follow Jesus and I long to walk on water. Like Peter though, I am easily distracted. I start out my day, with eyes on God, but quickly become consumed by the wind and waves of the world. Here is the key. Everything that is not Christ is wind and waves. When I take my eyes off him, I start to sink. At that point, I must cry out to Jesus or flounder. I often just abandon my faith-effort and swim back to the safety of my boat.
Jesus says, Just keep your eyes on me. He does not promise that there will not be storms. Following God does not mean calm seas. He allows distractions and He allows me to sink when I take my gaze off him. He allows me to struggle through life, flailing my arms, choking on the sea, but He is always there to lift me up when I return my gaze to him.
It is only when I keep my eyes on God above all else that I have faith to walk on the water of life. When I abandon faith, and focus on the wind and waves, I sink. Following Christ does not mean everything else in life ceases to exist. I am still a husband, father and employee. In faith, I just keep those things in proper perspective. Walking on water in faith is putting God above all and allowing those things to take their proper place.
Much of my angst and misery stems from putting the wind and waves before Christ. Faith means learning to navigate the wind and waves, while keeping my eyes on him.