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Monday, March 13, 2017
Who's in Control?
Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning[a] Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”
But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
“Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
Matthew 14:22-31 (NLT)
The story of Peter walking on water was the first bible story that I ever used talk about trusting God. I was in the 9th grade and it was our class' turn to conduct the weekly, school-wide devotions. Instead of the customary 2 scriptures and 2 hymns, we chose to do an exhortation from that scripture. All I remember is the thought that Peter was just like me, trusting sometimes, and forgetting to trust at others. And Jesus caught him before he drowned.
Now, more than 30 years later, I have a thriving river analogy that helps me frame my relationship with God and life. Sometimes life is the river, sometimes God is the river. What’s consistent is that I’m on a journey in the river and most of the time, I want to be in control. I’m relieved to acknowledge that I’m not alone in this. The whole field of psychology and the majority of scientific study is founded on the human need to control everything around us. And while God delights in inquiry, and the process of discovery helps us to further discover our God, the ultimate scientist and artist, He must constantly chuckle at our attempts to control our lives.
So Peter strikes out to go to Jesus and he does this by faith. He must have, because he didn’t start this journey off using skills he already had, like swimming. His interactions with Jesus provided grace to step out into the miraculous walking on water, even though a storm was in progress. I’m not sure what changed for Peter, but he became aware of his limited capacity to navigate stormy waters using a skill that he hadn’t yet honed. The scriptures say that he became terrified. Now, terror, dread, and all their relations are usually the product of the inability to control/prevent a negative outcome. Peter suddenly knew he couldn't walk on water.
In Spectrum Land (where the Clarkes spend most of their waking hours), the possibilities for a negative outcome don’t need to be imagined. They shout at me daily, painting the possible outcomes in high definition 3D images, with stereo sound. I get scared when I hear the persistent crying as J paces the upstairs corridor. (God, I thought that phase had passed?). I get scared when autism seems to be controlling his body, OCD stops him from eating his favorite foods and my expert redirection skills stop working. I get scared in the face of raging compulsion and impulse control issues because I imagine a future with this magnified 100 times and see all the potentially negative outcomes. I also see my inability to prevent them, and panic tightens its grip on my heart.
Just writing these sentences brings the tension to my neck and shoulders and the buzz into my head. I understand how loud the storm sounded to Peter, gripping his attention to the magnitude of his reality. The panic is about me and my lack of ability in the reality as I perceive it. Yet again I’m in the center of my thoughts. I’m blind to any reality outside of what my limited mind can understand. Jesus knows the about Peter and about me, and just points to Himself, redirecting Peter to the True Object of his faith.
He says to Peter (and me), “Why did you doubt me?” (Matt. 14: 31, NLT). Loosely paraphrased...
I’ve got you. I’ve got J. I’ve got this. You can let go, now. Trust me.
And in this moment, with the grace for today, I loosen my grip and let go.
Dear Lord, Thank you for the opportunity in this storm to remember that you are in the storm, providing all that we need to navigate, with trust. Help us to leave the directing to you today, as we trust you with our lives and those of our loved ones.