I remember when I was young, sitting on the edge of a swimming pool, resting my feet just on the surface of the water and thinking of the story of Peter in the boat.
“Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But 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 heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And 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?”
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”
How cool, I thought, would it be if I could just stand up and walk on the water? Isn’t Jesus real? Don’t I have enough faith? Of course, I was musing; I didn’t dare test God with such frivolous attempts. It wasn’t necessary, I knew, and God was not a toy. Still, I wished, maybe even prayed, that I would have such a power.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it has been given to me, and I’m wishing it hadn’t. (Don’t play games with God, he’s got a wicked sense of humor.) Of course, I’m not speaking literally, but it certainly feels like it. I can feel the water flowing into my lungs (thanks, Babesia); I can hear the roar of the waves in my ears (that you, tinnitus?); I shiver with the strong wind (bless you, dysautonomia). But mostly I feel utterly weak and unable to swim in an ocean of despair, fear, hopelessness, financial burdens, relationships, overwhelming medical mysteries. I thought I already surrendered and learned to just float a long time ago, but that was when the sea was calm. When that wind picks up, boy do I panic.
It was in the midst of one of those particularly dark and stormy nights, fourth watch, when I was drowning in my own tears, crying out, “Lord, save me!”
The image of Peter came to my mind. Looking it up, I found the story of myself, sheepishly clinging to the God who called me out, saying, “O you of little faith… why do you doubt?”
What struck me is that Peter brought it on himself. This passage immediately follows the miracle of feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Five. Thousand. People. Not eight hours later, they see Jesus walking on water… and Peter says, “Prove it.” Oh, Peter. You’re such a doofus. Just like me. How many times have I seen God provide? How many times has He proved Himself in control and working in the midst of my confusion? And yet, when this boat just keeps sailing, the shoreline isn’t getting any bigger, the wind starts to howl, and I even see Jesus in the midst of it saying, “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”…
Are you God or am I just crazy? Do I speak His truth or is it my delusional ranting? Does He really heal?
I ask God to prove Himself, and it turns out He does that by letting us do the impossible. Not the cool impossible like fly and raise the dead and walk on water, but the mundane impossible: surviving some of the worst things this fallen world has to throw at us. I say, “Prove it!” and He says, “… come here.” He lets me walk above the waves. When I am drowning, He doesn’t just let me float, He stands me on my feet and bids me to walk. It ain’t no catwalk. It’s not pretty; my clothes are tattered and soaked, my face is covered with snot and ugly-cry lines, and I smell like I just spent the night fishing. But I’m walking. To Him. With Him. On the water.
And even so, I have such little faith. Even so, He has to reach out and grab me while I stumble and drag me back into the boat with Him. That doofus Peter sees this, sees the transfiguration, sees the miracles, confesses Christ, watches as He reattaches the ear he just cut off, then goes and gets nervous and denies it all. Knowing me, I’m still going to jump out of the boat and try to swim myself; I’m going to pull out maps and try to get to shore a little faster, I’m going to tell Jesus how to navigate.
But I pray I would just curl up in the bottom of the boat and sleep while He steers. That I will stop hearing the wind. That I will worship Him and recognize who He is. And know that on the other side of the sea, whenever I get there, all who merely touch His garment are healed.
It was on this night I discovered the song "Oceans" - somehow I managed to avoid the mania for 5 whole years (there are many advantages to living overseas, and ignorance of CCM is one of them). I find modern worship music really cringy and cliche, but with the experience I had on this night, from sheer agony to discovering this song, was very special to me, and this song always will be.
You call me out upon the waters, The great unknown where feet may fail. And there I find You in the mystery. In oceans deep My faith will stand.
So I will call upon Your name, And keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace, For I am Yours and You are mine.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters. Your sovereign hand will be my guide Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me. You've never failed And You won't start now.
So I will call upon Your name, And keep my eyes above the waves, When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace, For I am Yours and You are mine.
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger In the presence of my Savior.
-"Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)" Matt Crocker, Joel Houston & Salomon Lightelm, Hillsong United
A beautiful rendition by Zoe Grace.