Friday, July 29, 2016

Walking on Water: When We Feel Like We're Up Against Something Impossible


What are you up against right now? Does it seem impossible?

For me, right now, it is fretting about my daughter leaving for college in just a few weeks. I know that she is perfectly capable of college - she is brilliant and funny and friendly and sensible. And I know that saying goodbye on drop-off day will not mean that we will never see one another again. But I also know that we are both stressed out about it.

We did a mall trip - one of our favorite things to do together - and then in the midst of clothes shopping we were sad. Everything we bought reminded us of the upcoming event. Everything. So we ate a jalapeno pretzel with cheese sauce and then got really brutal back massages from the mall kiosk people (remind me not to do that again).

But, for both of us, this whole daunting upcoming thing seems impossible. How will we do it? How will we survive?

So I went for a walk. I do my best thinking while I'm walking on the beach. It was hot out this morning at 7 a.m., but the cool waves were running over my feet, and no matter how stressed or angry or sad I am, the sight and sounds of the ocean make me calm inside.

So I walked, and I muttered. No fancy, articulate prayers here. And I worried out loud about how life was changing with our daughter leaving for college. And, I sighed about politics, and how much I hate those discussions on Facebook, and how my husband is watching way too much political television. And I just let it all out like a trail of worries left in my soggy footsteps.

But in the middle of my prayer-venting, I looked out over the ocean and remembered that time that Jesus asked Peter to walk on water.Well, actually, Peter invited himself. But, Jesus said, "Come along!"

You know, and I know, that walking on water is physically impossible. You might see an illusion like that in Vegas, but not in real life. It's like the time on The Office where Pam decided to walk over coals.

I don't like to attempt the impossible. I like the easy to plan, to schedule, to fulfill. I like my world in order. I like things to be under control. I like to know that I am perfectly capable, and that I will not, can not fail.

But in this story, Peter was being asked to do something impossible. Jesus said, Come to me. Walk on water.

So, Peter did it. He took a step, one big, crazy, impossible step. And, for a moment, it worked.

He was walking . . . on water. He was doing the impossible.

I imagine he kind of freaked out for a moment, and then like a super hero. Wow, am I cool! Look at me - Water Man. I am amazing. I have power over nature. I can do anything!

And then he sank. He walked on water, and then he sank.

If you read the story closely, you'll see that the problem wasn't in Peter's technique. He was walking just fine. It was in his focus.

When he looked at Jesus, when he placed all of his trust in Him, he walked.

But, when he looked at the water, at the high waves, at his feet which were not finned and did not resemble a paddleboard or other flotation device, he immediately began to sink.

It's an easy lesson. I'm sure I don't have to spell it out for you. But, how does that apply to me, to doing things I don't think I can do?

When I was in 7th grade, I was required to walk on a balance beam in gym class. I know. If you know me at all, you are laughing right now. The wooden beam was maybe 2 inches wide . . . maybe. And, it was at least 3 feet in the air. So with fear and trembling, and with a spotter, I walked on it, slowly, my toes curled around it like a terrified reptile.

But then the teacher wanted me to jump . . . jump on the beam . . . like a ballerina. Right!? Are you kidding me? And, it's better, they said, if you don't look at the floor or your feet. Look ahead. Otherwise, you lose your balance.

I never did learn how to walk on the beam, or do that weird backwards somersault thing they made me try. But I did learn a lesson a whole lot like Peter's. You can't do the impossible when you are focused on your limitations. Instead, we need to deliberately place our focus on Jesus, and on what we can do through Him.

If you think that you will fail, you are probably right. You, alone, can't do the impossible. You will sink.

Look to God, and you will walk . . . even on water.

- - -

And, in case you've never read it:  MATTHEW 14:22-33 (TLB)

28 Then Peter called to him: “Sir, if it is really you, tell me to come over to you, walking on the water.”
29 “All right,” the Lord said, “come along!”
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
31 Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and rescued him. “O man of little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 And when they had climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
33 The others sat there, awestruck. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.


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