One of the earliest life storms I can remember was getting cut from the basketball team in seventh grade. I was a strapping 4’ 8" tall and was trying out against kids that were a little further along in their entry to puberty. I spent hours trying to perfect my shot, hoping to have something of value to add to the team. When tryouts came around I was easily the worst player on the court. Needless to say, I was cut. I was as devastated as you can be in seventh grade and something doesn’t go your way.
In the past couple months I’ve walked through storms with multiple families and people I care about. Lost family members, divorces, cancer, and job loss. In my own journey I’ve wrestled tremendously with the question of, "what do we do when the waves get rough and life feels scary?"
I think the ways we respond in adversity and pain are central to what it means to be human.
Joy and hope are good reinforcers but are not teachers. We learn and grow from the hardships and sorrow we face.
One of the stories that has repeatedly come back to me lately is the story of Jesus walking on water and calming the storm.
And in the fourth watch of the nighthe 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.
I see a lot of myself in the disciple's reactions to the storm and to Jesus walking out to them.
Often, our tendency is to hide. We cower in fear when we see the wind and the waves rise. Self preservation is a natural first response to danger.
I love and aspire to the bravery of Peter who takes a step towards Jesus. In Greek and Hebrew the word for faith is most often used as a verb. I admire the faith of Peter in getting out of the boat. I also see myself in him in the way that as soon as he was closer to the storm he panicked. He took his eyes off of Jesus.
Immediately Jesus reached and grabbed him.
Jesus steps closer to the storm to rescue Peter.
What I’m learning in this season for myself, and for the journeys of so many friends, is that the love of Jesus is bigger than our fear. It’s bigger than our doubt. It’s bigger than our anxiety or our moments of panic.
My hope for all of us is that we will get out of the boat and, in faith, step towards this truth especially when the waves get rough and life feels scary.
A prayer that I’m learning to pray as I’m waking up is a simple 7 words, “God, today you have my full attention.”
This isn’t always easy to pray. But for me, it’s the first step in getting out of the boat.