A while back, a friend told me about something she had heard on the radio. As she flipped through the stations, she caught the tail-end of a conversation. We don’t know who it was, or even what program it was on. The voice came through the speakers in her car and asked, “When Peter decided to hop out of a fishing boat in a storm and walk on the water toward Jesus, which of his feet was harder to get out of the boat?”
My friend said she thought this message was for me. Turns out, she was right.
Because I was in the middle of a storm. It felt a little like the ship was going down. Everything I was comfortable with and felt secure in was being tossed around, much like a ship in a hurricane.
And yet, I heard Jesus calling to me, “Come.”
As in, “Come to Me… Trust me… Just take a step.”
I thought about the question asked by that pastor. Here Peter is, in a boat in a storm, and he thinks he sees a ghost out on the water. When he realizes, it’s not a ghost, but instead it’s Jesus, Peter gets this crazy idea. It sounds almost like a dare, a challenge: “If that’s really you, Jesus… then tell me to get out of the boat.”
How many times in my life have I taken the same approach with God? In my doubt, in my fear, in my pride… I’ve said it, too: “If that’s really you, Jesus, then tell me to do this crazy thing that makes no logical sense.” Because in my heart, I’m thinking there’s no way that crazy thing can happen, and God would never ask me to walk on water (or quit my job, or end a relationship, or get help for that addiction, or a million other crazy things). And yet at the same time, something in me actually wants to do the crazy stuff for God because I want to know that God can be trusted. I want to watch the miracle.
I think… God can use a heart like that. The heart that just wants to trust, even if on the surface it is stubborn and prideful. For me, my stubborn pride is just the outer veneer of a heart that really just desperately longs to do the impossible so that I can tell others how God is changing me.
I wonder if that’s what Peter was thinking, too. I wonder if Peter really longed to see God do the miracle, and his “dare” was just an indirect way of asking Jesus to do something big.
Jesus did. He simply said, “Come.”
Ok – so it’s one thing to say, “Ok, God. I trust you. And if you want me to leap out of this boat and do the impossible, I will.” But DOING it? One leg out, then the other… That’s a whole different animal!
So which one of Peter’s feet required more faith to get out of the boat? I think it could go either way, but for me, I think it’s the second foot.
Because in my own life, I’ve had countless moments of bold courage where nothing was going to keep me from doing that crazy thing. Nothing! I’m going to kick that habit, work on that issue, tackle that problem in my own heart… But then when I throw my first leg over the side of the boat, it gets wet. I realize it really is just water and it’s impossible to walk on water… In my human-ness, I pull back. My humanity says stay in the boat! I recoil. All my courage disappears. I start thinking maybe I need to just stay where it is safe and comfortable. Even in the storm, when I think the ship is going down, I still tend to believe that the chaos of the boat is safer than going out on the water toward Jesus.
And yet… I know that I cannot live my life with one leg in the water and the other in the boat. Jesus never called me to safe and comfortable. Jesus calls me to surrender, and that means ALL of me. Both legs.
Slowly (sometimes it’s painfully slow!), I swing my second leg over the side of the boat, and I feel my weight shift as I stand up on the water. And that bold courage I had? It melts into sheer dependence.
I imagine Peter standing in awe and amazement as he watches the waves crash around his legs. I imagine him slowly looking up and meeting the eyes of Christ with his own. Oh the wonder he must have felt in that moment! I also imagine him realizing his own weight. His sin, his baggage, his story… When he thought about how heavy it all was, he started to sink. And yet, Jesus said “Come.” As long as Peter focused on Jesus, he stood.
As I stand in the water, it is no longer about me or my own strength. I’m not strong enough to hold my own weight anymore. The beautiful part of the story is that I don’t have to be! Jesus took all of my weight on the cross, and I am feather-light when I choose to become completely and utterly dependent on Him. Sinking comes when I focus on me, but as long as my eyes are on Christ, I stand.
This New Year, I want to live on the water. In both calm seas and storms, I want to be brave enough to get the second leg out of the boat! But more than that, I want to learn the kind of bravery that only comes from a place of sheer dependence on God. I want to allow Christ to hold my weight, as I boldly focus on taking steps toward Him. It is through “second leg faith” and raw dependence that I will become truly BRAVE.